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From The CriticsReviewer: Martin J. Carey, MG, BCh, MPH (University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences)
Description: This book is a thorough review of the skills necessary to perform an effective medical interview. The information is presented in a readable, structured format with many excellent examples and anecdotes.
Purpose: The editors aim to provide a "cognitive framework that is simple enough to master relatively quickly, yet robust enough to touch upon the most important dimensions of the communication process." This is a valuable and useful book for anyone entering the field of medicine, or indeed anyone who is expected to communicate with patients or relatives. The editors completely fulfill their stated aims and objectives.
Audience: "The medical student [is] the prime focus of the text." However the editors state that it could be used in a variety of other medical settings, including residencies, nursing programs. and social work programs. The book hits its target, but many practitioners, even those who have been in medicine for many years, could learn much from this text. The editors are recognized authorities in this field.
Features: The "three functions" of the book title are introduced, and the editors give a clear and reasoned rationale for implementing this approach in medical interviewing. The functions are described as "building relationships, gathering information, and managing problems." The approach is explained in detail using clear and interesting examples. The accounts of interviews are very realistic, the sort of interaction medical students could easily imagine occurring. After an introduction to basic interviewing techniques, more complex interactions are described and methods of approaching these interactions are discussed within the framework of the three basic functions. This approach is very effective. Throughout, excellent examples of interviews and interactions are used to illustrate the points made in the text. The book could be considered a little like having the opportunity to watch a number of skilled interviewers in action. The units are well organized. Of interest and note is the section on Higher Order Skills, in which areas of communication that are often overlooked are addressed, such as the use of nonverbal communication skills — the one area of the text where illustrations are used. There is also an introduction to some of the psychological principles that are used in interviewing. Although this section is brief it serves as an important introduction to the topic.
Assessment: As a teacher of communication skills for medical students, I found this book to be an excellent resource. It would be an ideal text for students learning the skills of interviewing, whether using standardized patients or "real" patients. Some of the interactions discussed serve as ideal areas for initiating discussion in small group settings. The text could also be used by those designing standardized patient programs, where patients could be trained to initiate discussions similar to those described in the text — a true example of how theory and practice could work together effectively. This second edition expands upon the first in a number of areas. It is a very important addition to the literature in the area of medical communication, and will be useful to both the target audience of medical students and can also be a resource for many involved in the area of patient communication.