Book Review

Feathers in the Dust : A hospice doctor’s tale

David Trevelyan


I loved this book. I hope the author will forgive me for describing it as slightly old fashioned! This is a book that should be read by everyone working within the British healthcare system, from the clinical team to the ancillary staff to the managers! It brings out the very best in human nature, and what makes palliative care special. It took me back to the days when I first entered a hospice, and noticed many small details which makes such a difference to the morale of the staff, and the successful support and care given to the patients and families. It is crammed full of these little gems, which are in danger of becoming lost!

However, first the reader has to get through the first chapter where they quickly are introduced to reality, and there is no place for squeamishness. A new doctor, David, an aspiring trainee surgeon, arrives for an intended short spell of hospice work, to immediately encounter half digested fish and chips in a plastic bucket outside the entrance, blinds being drawn and nurses stationed as a patient who had died was wheeled to the room of rest, and some fairly gory details of tumour spread.

In no time at all David – and the reader – gets to know about team work, and team humour. He meets the chaplain, and managers, and is introduced to hospice funding. Within the first chapter difficult issues are discussed, the team making decisions on long term care, while team support is apparent everywhere. A patient is moved to hospital, and complex clinical situations are clearly though often graphically described.

I am not quite sure what those outside health care would initially make of it, but if they can bear with facing reality they would find it immensely reassuring. Throughout there is a sense of hope and a gentle spirituality.

As the book continues, the staff give their all, enter into fundraising and romance is in the air. Do buy it, read it and give a copy to anyone who needs hospice explained.

Jean Maxwell 

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