Thursday, 17 December 2009

Book Review: 'Cambridge English for Nursing'

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Cambridge English for Nursing
by Virginia Allum & Patricia McGarr

Cambridge University Press 2008
ISBN 9780521715409
Publisher's Website
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From the blurb: "Cambridge English for Nursing is for intermediate to upper-intermediate level (B1-B2) learners of English who need to use English in a nursing environment. The course can be used in the classroom or for self-study.

Cambridge English for Nursing is designed to improve communication skills and specialist language knowledge, enabling healthcare professionals to work more confidently and effectively."
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One of the great joys of teaching English to adult professionals is that you come into contact with a vast array of different people, personalities and working lifestyles. The stories I've had shared with me from air traffic controllers, Africa-based oil-company reps and international glue salesmen in the course of my English teaching career would probably fill a book in their own right.

And as English language teaching materials get more and more industry specific, we are having to deal with a lot of very specialised terms and in particular functional language of the sort offered by one of Cambridge University Press' latest books, Cambridge English for Nursing.

Having given quite a detailed description of the style of this series when reviewing the Cambridge English for Job-hunting title, I'll allow myself a rather more anecdotal approach here if you don't mind.

I was a bit harsh in the aforementioned review, complaining that its six long and rather unexciting units with their equally laborious listenings could have been made a bit more accessible and snappy. Cambridge English for Nursing, with its ten 8-page units (as opposed to six 13-page slogs) and the colourful medical diagrams and pictures immediately make it more accessible.

The job-hunting title struggled to jolly up its pages with assorted stock pics of pens hovering over pads and people looking pensive. Cambridge English for Nursing gets right to the nitty-gritty with juicy diagrams of the inner workings of the pancreas, a universal pain assessment tool and a pretty graphic set of gruesome wounds to admire. Oh, and there are a couple of photos of pens poised pensively over pads for good measure...

The exercises themselves are as excellently imagined as ever from Cambridge, and the scope of language and medical situations covered is almost mindboggling to the lay English teacher. I don't know for sure, but I imagine that this title will be extremely well received by teachers working in hospitals or for university-level nursing courses where the students need to be able to cope competently in a wide range of medical situations.

The page layout is particularly successful in this title, always colourful and nice to look at, with a great variety of tables, boxes, drop-shadowed notebook pages and so on to keep the learners interest levels up.

The listening material is as comprehensive as it is eye-opening for the non-specialist teacher. I'd love to have been a fly on the editor's wall as they discussed just what sort of conversation would most naturally illustrate all the necessary language involved in giving a urine sample or cleaning someone's bowels out. A sample of what they came up with:
Frances: ...That's why it's called a midstream urine sample. Do you understand what I mean?
Mrs Faisal: Yes, I think so. Let me repeat what I have to do so I'm sure I've got it right. I pass some urine into the toilet and then some more urine into the container.

Frances: Yes, that's exactly what I want you to do. We want to get the middle part of the stream of urine. Just one more thing. - tighten the lid before you give me the specimen container, please.

Mrs Faisal: Oh right, I can see why that's important.
While it's rather cringe worthy to listen to the obviously contrived exchanges like this, plaudits to the authors for just managing to imagine scenarios where these sorts of conversations don't sound totally ridiculous.

The ten units in the book cover Patient admissions, Respiratory problems, Wound care, Diabetes care, Medical specimens, Medications, Intravenous infusions, Pre- and Post-operative patient assessment, and Discharge planning.

The focus is firmly on real-life communicative skills needed by nurses, with bang up to date material organised sensibly. Each unit contains, and I quote:
  • discussion of the nursing topic
  • listening activities reflecting everyday nursing scenarios
  • a focus on communication, for example giving advice sensitively
  • a medical focus, for example describing how the heart works
  • charting and documentation - medical forms and how to use them
  • abbreviations and acronyms used in healthcare
  • an online glossary with a pronunciation guide

Cambridge English for Nursing can be used if studying alone and the units are stand-alone and can be done in any order. It would also make a good course book as part of a nursing qualification where English is important.

A great deal of thought and effort has obviously gone into producing this book, and the authors and editor are to be praised for this.

I hope you enjoy using this book, and do tell us how you get on with Mrs Clarke's enema in unit 8 - I'm dying to know!

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Hotch Potch English: 'The English Language Teaching Review Blog" ~ Book Review: 'Cambridge English for Nursing'
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Copyright 2009 Sab Will / Hotch Potch English
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1 comment:

Virginia Allum said...

Thanks for your kind comments about 'Cambridge English for Nursing'. Some of the topics are a bit 'cringe-worthy', however,came from my experience as a nurse both in Australia and the UK. I tried to present the sort of authentic language nurses would be likely to come across in day-to-day dealings. Sometimes, conversations about basic, human bodily functions are the hardest to negotiate!
Virginia Allum

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