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Dear diary, I survived…

A diary kept by hospital staff, family and friends could help intensive-care patients prevent psychological complications.

“Being admitted to ICU can be a time of significant psychological and physical stress for patients and their families,” said Bev Ewens, a PhD candidate at Edith Cowan University. “They are immersed in an alien, highly technological environment, in an unconscious state, unable to communicate, whilst undergoing many life-saving procedures.”

Survivors of extended ICU stays can have extremely high levels of physical and psychological complications, and often patients never regain their pre-ICU level of health and wellbeing.

According to Ewens, there is currently a lack of consensus about the best methods of supporting this recovering patient group; however, the diaries offer a glimmer of hope.

“If a patient is given a diary, written by friends, family and staff, describing their stay in ICU, they can use this to piece together the missing events of their ICU experience,” Ewens said.

Ewens, who will interview people who have been patients in intesive care units during the past three months, hopes to gain further insight with those willing to share their experience.

“I hope to identify significant events during a patient’s time in ICU and any support structures they experienced and identified within the diaries, in order to develop services to reduce the onset of PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] and optimise the quality of life.”

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