The informed practice nurse

Edited by Marilyn Edwards Whurr Publishers 220 pages£19.50

Somewhat surprisingly, given the rapid increase in the number of practice nurses, only a handful of books in the past decade have attempted to provide an all-round guide and background text for them.

Most failed as they tried to cram a history, a sociological evaluation of the role's development and a clinical textbook into one volume. Ms Edwards, however, succeeds by limiting herself to nine key chapters providing information relevant to the core business of practice nursing.

The book starts with an overview of ethics, which turns out to be a reasonably comprehensive guide to professional accountability for practice nurses.

The chapter would have benefited from an 'ethical' slant on the power play in general practice - in particular, how the often omnipotent position of GP as employer can undermine any attempt by practice nurses to be collegiate equals advocating innovation.

The clinical section of the book provides a competent summary of infection control, health promotion, women's health, wound management and care of young people.

Most of these chapters are written by more than one author, with some respected experts in their fields condensing quite complex information into around 30 pages each.

The references, many taken from work produced in the second half of the 1990s, reflect the contemporaneous nature of a good deal of the information in the book.

It is particularly good to see men's health included as an issue, given the often overworked emphasis on women's health in similar texts.

Indeed both the men's and women's health chapters are a refreshing change from coverage elsewhere as they do not shy away from the more challenging issues of sexuality and gender in highlighting the particular needs of lesbians and gay men.

It would be nice if readers could transplant these concepts into traditional general practice.

Ms Edwards completes the volume with a contribution of her own, on the future of practice nursing. Her topics include employment models, organisational change, education and new areas such as nurse prescribing.

Given the limitations of trying to second-guess what lies ahead, the author does a good job in looking at the more radical possibilities, which will inevitably change the face of practice nursing as we know it.

The editor should be congratulated in packing so much into such a concise volume, and I recommend it to new and established practice nurses. But such a condensed production can never replace more specialised texts, and it is important to use this book as an overview and pointer to more detailed works, rather than as an alternative.

Mark Jones Primary care policy adviser, Royal College of Nursing