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The effect of family-authored diaries on posttraumatic stress disorder in intensive care unit patients and their relatives: A randomised controlled trial (DRIP-study)

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  • Anne Højager Nielsen
  • Sanne Angel
  • Ingrid Egerod
  • Trine Højfeldt Lund
  • Marianne Renberg
  • Torben Bæk Hansen
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BACKGROUND: Critical illness and mechanical ventilation may cause patients and their relatives to experience symptoms of posttraumatic stress, anxiety, and depression due to fragmentation of memories of their intensive care unit (ICU) stay. Intensive care diaries authored by nurses may help patients and relatives process the experience and reduce psychological problems after hospital discharge; however, as patients particularly appreciate diary entries made by their relatives, involving relatives in authoring the diary could prove beneficial.

OBJECTIVES: The objective of this study was to explore the effect of a diary authored by a close relative for a critically ill patient.

METHODS: The study was a multicenter, block-randomised, single-blinded, controlled trial conducted at four medical-surgical ICUs at two university hospitals and two regional hospitals. Eligible for the study were patients ≥18 years of age, undergoing mechanical ventilation for ≥24 h, staying in the ICU ≥48 h, with a close relative ≥18 years of age. A total of 116 relatives and 75 patients consented to participate. Outcome measures were scores of posttraumatic stress symptoms, anxiety, depression, and health-related quality of life three months after ICU discharge.

RESULTS: Relatives had 26.3% lower scores of posttraumatic stress in the diary group than in the control group (95% confidence interval: 4.8-% to 52.2%). Patients had 11.2% lower scores of posttraumatic stress symptoms in the diary group (95% confidence interval: -15.7% to 46.8%). There were no differences between groups in depression, anxiety, or health-related quality of life.

CONCLUSION: A diary written by relatives for the ICU patient reduced the risk of posttraumatic stress symptoms in relatives. The diary had no effect on depression, anxiety, or health-related life quality. However, as the diary was well received by relatives and proved safe, the diary may be offered to relatives of critically ill patients during their stay in the ICU.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAustralian critical care : official journal of the Confederation of Australian Critical Care Nurses
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)123-129
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020

    Research areas

  • Critical care, Critical care nursing, Family nursing, Intensive care diaries, Posttraumatic, Stress disorders

ID: 58616559