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 diaries 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 diary 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. Diary 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 an iPad 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 they are discharged from the ICU, reading and reviewing ICU diary 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.
The example below is fictitious, but illustrates the powerful effect that our electronic diaries can have.
Humans of the Hospital (HOTH)
Hi, my name is Nafisa and I am a Concordia student in Behavioural Neuroscience. Humans of the Hospital is a photoblog that will be featuring all kinds of people who either volunteer or work as part of the ICU Bridge Program team. I feel that there is this misconception that if you are in the sciences, you are probably not interested in the arts and vice-versa. Guess what? It is possible and in fact more common than you think! Photography is a superb way to convey a complex idea into a single still image. It is easier and more profound to see someone’s emotions through a photograph to understand what he or she is expressing, than to read about them in an article. Photography has always been one of my passions and what better way to explore it further than using it to convey the stories of the hardworking men and women in our hospitals and the ICU Bridge Program? Stay tuned!