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Placement Learning in Cancer and Palliative Care Nursing. A guide for students in practice

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Title: Placement Learning in Cancer and Palliative Care Nursing. A guide for students in practice

Author: Penny Howard and Becky Chady

Publisher: Bailliere Tindall, Elsevier, 2012

Reviewer: Anne Duell, registered general nurse, Birmingham Community NHS Trust

What was it like?

This book provides its readers with a clear and concise introduction to how to prepare and cope with supporting patients and carers in what may be an emotionally challenging placement. The authors work together well in presenting a strong first section, which works to prepare students to challenge their own perceptions of what cancer is and how it is perceived not just by themselves but also by a wider society. Within the first few pages students are encouraged to consider their anxieties and concerns about this placement and to work out a coping strategy, thereby ensuring a support network is in place if it is required. 


There is a refresher section for students who have already covered the biology of cancer, while at the same time providing a good grounding for those who are learning the biology of cancer for the first time. Progressing from this the multimodality treatment options are explained in a reader friendly manner supporting students learning and development, using breast cancer as its focal point. Moving forward, students are pointed to the specialist elements of care involved for their patient’s dependent upon the stage of treatment embarked upon. The care and treatment options discussed within this book present the students with the skills and knowledge to look holistically at their patient’s needs. Using the acronym APIE they can learn how to Assess, Plan, Implement and Evaluate the care and treatment being offered and/or being received by patients in their care.

The later sections of this book deal with supporting patients and their families in the last few days of life. This may be a new experience for some students and the authors use good case studies to enable their readers to gain some theoretical knowledge of what they may encounter, while being aware that each individual person approaches end of life in a different way whether they are a patient, relative or health care professional.

As with other books within this series, this book is a resource for mentors to be aware of, especially when supporting and mentoring students in their care. The layout provides points for practice and placement specific reading lists enabling further study to be embarked upon to consolidate learning beyond knowing just the basics of cancer and palliative care nursing.

What were the highlights? 

The highlights of this book are the use of case studies to aid student learning in conjunction with points for practice. Reference is made to the end of life care strategy and the importance of maintaining holistic care and support, encompassing any spiritual needs.   Howard and Chady also provide guidance in regards to transferable skills that can be taken from this specialised field of nursing into other fields of allow learning.

Strengths & weaknesses:

While reading this book no weaknesses are evident.  As with any specialist field it touches the surface and allows the reader opportunity to research further into areas of specific interest. The layout is methodical and clear in its presentation with clear guidance and current referencing. 

Who should read it?

This book should be considered by students of nursing who are going to embark on placements within cancer wards and palliative care. I would suggest also that it should be read by any student of nursing since, as nurses we can encounter patients with a diagnosis of cancer in any field of nursing and at some point we are likely to encounter patients who are approaching the end of life. Mentors should also read this book since it acts as a reminder of the needs of this patient group but also of the physical and emotional needs that their students may need during their placement.

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