Reviewer: May S. Jennings, MD (Minneapolis VA Medical Center)
Description: This book is designed to take the mystery out of the interviewing process for those in their early years of medical training. It delves into the usual interviewing structure in great detail before moving on to special situations where the interviewer may need additional expertise. The general format of the book combines terms and useful suggestions with a plethora of sample interviews. The previous addition was published in 1997.
Purpose: The purpose is to educate young clinicians in helpful techniques for successful interviews. Successful interviewing skills lie within the art of medicine difficult to teach but very important to master. The authors certainly accomplish their goal here and do so in a very practical way.
Audience: The book targets those clinicians who are early in their training years medical students more than interns, interns more than residents. Although more experienced clinicians are not targeted, the book is full of helpful pearls of wisdom that are useful to the mature clinician as well. The authors are credible authorities on this subject and have appropriately pinpointed the target audience.
Features: The book begins with a thorough review of interviewing attitudes and general skills, followed by a shorter section on special interviewing situations and special types of patients who may be encountered. Perhaps the most helpful part of the book is the extensive sample interviews that are scattered throughout the text to give life and meaning to the dry, boring list of interviewing terms. The basic skills section at the beginning is particularly well done and is very much on the level of a third year medical student's need for direction. This section does an excellent job of combining techniques with interpersonal skills, emphasizing the relationship between doing a job and being a compassionate, respectful person. The last two portions of the book have less substance and are a little too wordy, especially the part on basic skills in practice. The few pertinent suggestions could have been stated in a couple of pages rather than 150 pages.
Assessment: This is a very practical book that is fun to read for any level of clinician. In comparison to Bates' Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking, 7th edition (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 1999), a standard interviewing text for medical students, this book is much more helpful because the authors really involve the reader in the interviewing scenarios rather than just listing interviewing techniques and terms. I am not familiar with the previous edition of this book, but I think it definitely fills a gap in the medical education library. There seems to be a paucity of effective literature on interviewing techniques, although the interview remains critical to excellent patient care.