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Ed. J Higgs, H Edwards. (Pp 303; £27.50.) Oxford: Butterworth Heinemann, 1999. ISBN 0-7506-3773-0.
This book is too good to hurry. I was at first disappointed as I had misunderstood that it would address itself more exclusively to postgraduate issues, my chief domain. Its 36 chapters pertain to the education of the so termed “beginning practitioner”, defined as “the level of competence and stage of preparation the graduate has achieved on entry to their profession”. However, as the sections were unveiled, it was apparent from the scope of the book that it had intended to address comprehensively the education of the beginning practitioner by considering the entire process, from even before the undertaking of the initial training programmes. The chapter on the development of professionalism was particularly interesting in referring back to the earliest stages even before the conscious selection of a chosen profession occurs.
As the themes of the book continued to be developed, so I found myself engrossed in the topics addressed. The whole of section two, exploring “The context of health science education” was a challenge, but worth the perseverance, and I enjoyed the provocative elements of chapter 13, “Designing and implementing a learning programme: a feminist and critical perspective”, which was both irritating and enlightening. From then on the remaining sections drew together all the strands relating to the undergraduate and initial postgraduate phases and were most interesting and informative. The book does well to cover the links and similarities across the board of all the health professions and manages to span the world effectively in its referencing, although, understandably, the weight appears to be on the antipodean side.
The target audience has been well identified, although I doubt that the student will have either the time or inclination to dip into its chapters. The book's promotional material omits the medical profession from its list of prospective readership, but I do believe that it is extremely pertinent to the medical educator, particularly with consideration for the breadth of experience of those contributing and its literature research base.
The editors have also made a huge contribution to the chapters within the book, and their knowledge and experience in the field is most apparent. It is a book that needs to be read thoughtfully in its entirety and then referred back to. To dip into the index only for selective reading would wholly miss the point. The editors and authors are to be congratulated on bringing together a thoroughly comprehensive work and I feel much the richer in being asked to take part in its review.
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