The ICU is often an incredibly emotional and stressful environment for both patients and their families. Patients in critical condition are often intubated and sedated for long periods of time. This makes it difficult for patients to recall certain events or differentiate between delusions and reality. Many patients and their families develop Post Intensive Care Syndrome (PICS), which includes mental health issues, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, and depression.
The goal of the ICU journals initiative is to address this issue by continuing and restoring the patient’s life narrative in this very difficult period of time.
In other words, an ICU journal is an electronic journal documenting the patient’s stay at the ICU. It is not a medical record, but a ledger to which family members and ICU staff may contribute thoughts that they feel may later be helpful to the patient. Journal entries are typically written by visitors or nurses, with the help of ICU Bridge Program volunteers. They may include:
Wishes and reflections from visitors
Pictures of the patient's progress
A video of the patient's first steps
Simple everyday events such as updates from the family, the weather outside, sports news…
The ICU Bridge Program volunteers will assist in managing journal entries by providing a tablet to interested families and showing them how the diary application works (how to access the appropriate journal, how to add photos/videos/audio recordings, etc).
After patients are discharged from the ICU, reading and reviewing ICU journal entries can be valuable during the long road to recovery. Studies show that the diaries help patients and families understand and integrate their illness experience better, as well as reduce the incidence of PTSD. Read about some of the patients' experiences with the ICU Journals via the articles by JGH News and La Presse.
Journal Entries using Tablets
The example below is fictitious, but illustrates the powerful effect that our electronic journals can have.