IAHPC Book Reviews

2020; Volume 21, No 9, September

Note for authors and publishers
If you wish to have your book reviewed, please send it to:

Dr. Roger Woodruff
IAHPC Bookshop Editor
210 Burgundy St, Suite 9
Heidelberg, Victoria 3084

Palliative Care Book of the Month


Elaine Wittenberg, Joy V. Goldsmith, Sandra L. Ragan, and Terri Ann Parnell
Oxford University Press, 2020
328 pp, hardcover
Also available: e-book
ISBN 978-0-19-006132-6

RRP $US48.99 £32.99

The first edition of Communication in Palliative Nursing was published in 2012 and was reviewed here in the April 2013 Newsletter. The present volume is an update on the COMFORT model, adjusted to accommodate the changes that have occurred in clinical palliative care, and draws on the considerable literature reporting on the efficacy of the model in clinical practice.

It outlines a holistic communication model — COMFORT — an acronym for the seven principles designed to be taught and implemented in palliative care communication. C for Connect, O for Options, M for Making meaning, F for Family caregivers, O for Openings, R for Relating, and T for Team.

The text is well set out with numerous lists and tables. There is a sound description of all of the aspects of communication as well as an explanation as to why they are important, including such matters as nonverbal communication and health literacy. There are a lot of clinical examples given, as well as tips for implementation and assessment. At the end of each chapter there are lists of recommended reading and recommended websites, in addition to a list of references. Each chapter is followed by a section titled “Teaching Resources and Materials” that includes a number of practical exercises designed to illustrate the principles listed in the chapter.

This book is written by four experts in communication (although it is noted that Parnell is also a nurse). It is written about and for the palliative care scene in the USA, but I think the principles discussed make it relevant elsewhere. If you work in palliative care and wonder whether your communication skills could be improved, or if you teach about communication in palliative care, then this book has a lot to offer. And, as I noted in 2013, it left me asking me why we are not exposing our medical students, interns, and residents to this type of training in good communication, particularly for patients with advanced disease and their families.

(Roger Woodruff, August 2020)

Other Review


Lindsay Ragsdale and Elissa Miller (eds.)
Oxford University Press, 2020
305 pp, softcover
Also available: e-book
ISBN 978-0-19-005185-3
RRP $US49.95 £32.99

This book comprises 38 chapters, each dealing with a particular difficult clinical situation in pediatric palliative care. On the first page is a clinical vignette and explanation of the problem, followed by “What do you do now?” This is followed by a discussion of the way(s) the problem can be addressed and the therapeutic option(s). These seem well written and to the point. Each chapter ends with a “Key Points to Remember” box and a list of recommended further reading. The book is divided into five sections: Goals of Care, Symptom Management, Perinatal and Neonatal Care, Adolescent and Young Adult Care, and Special Considerations.

There are 40 contributors, all from the United States.

If you work in pediatric palliative care, this book will allow you to reflect on how you might go about some of the problems they pose. For anyone training in pediatric palliative care, and their teachers, it’s a must.

The back cover indicates this is the first volume of a “What Do I Do Now? Palliative Care” series. Similar books to do with non-pediatric palliative care would be something to look forward to.

(Roger Woodruff, July 2020)

Roger Woodruff, MD (Australia)
Dr. Woodruff is a Lifetime Member of the IAHPC Board and Past Chair. His bio may be found here.

NB: Review copies become the property of IAHPC and are not returned to the author. Only books related to palliative care that have been approved and have an ISBN will be reviewed. Due to the large number of requests, we cannot provide exact dates of when books will be reviewed.

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