Palliative Care Nursing: A Guide to Practice (2nd edition)


M O’Connor and S Aranda (eds)
Published by Ausmed Publications (2003)
ISBN:  0-9577-9884-9.  377 pages plus index.
RRP:  A$65.95

The goal of the first edition of this book, according to the editors, was to make palliative care accessible to nurses in all health care settings. This second edition has been completely revised and rewritten and achieves continuing relevance to nurses, in all settings, who require information about palliative care. The book presents palliative care as a “continuum of practice from a generalised approach to a specialist discipline”. The editors and the authors of other chapters in the book write with acknowledged expertise in the subject areas.

The book is divided into 24 chapters and the content centres on contemporary practice issues in palliative care nursing. There is a focus on clinical issues faced by nurses caring for dying people. The topics covered provide the capacity for nurses and other readers of the book to think about the depth and breadth of issues that are involved in palliative care that is described as “holistic, expert and interdisciplinary”. The scope of the contents of this book ranges from evidence-based practice in palliative care, psychological and existential distress, sexuality and body image to nutrition and hydration, occupational stress, frameworks for detailed and continuous assessment, and palliative care for people other than those with malignancy. The book chapters are clearly set out and are discrete, making it easy to access relevant chapters.

So often issues around staff stress for those working with people who are dying are positioned at the end of publications or education sessions. It is interesting to note that in this book the chapter about occupational stress is in the first section. Similarly, knowledge related to care of the spirit is often relegated to less prominent positions than information about other symptom management. Again, the positioning of the chapter on spirituality at the beginning of this book is noteworthy.

The problems that often cause the most discomfort for the people experiencing them, such as breathlessness, fatigue and constipation, are important inclusions in the book. The psychosocial aspects of palliative care often present challenges for health care providers, particularly those working in areas where the dominant culture is framed by technical and biomedical paradigms. Inclusion of chapters about sexuality and body image, and psychological and existential distress, among others, add a vital dimension.

This is a book that will enhance readers’ understanding of care and support for people (and their families, friends and carers) at the end of life. It provides accessible comprehensive evidence-based guidelines for practitioners. The dedication at the start of the book to the memory of a daughter by a mother is essential. This dedication ensures the voice of the patient and the people who mean most to them is at the forefront. This is the essence of excellent palliative care.

J Gibson
Clare Holland House
Canberra, ACT

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