The Emergence and Evolution of the Intensive Care Patient Diary

Saturday, 26 July 2014: 3:50 PM

Ingrid Egerod, PhD, MSN, RN
Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark


The intensive care patient diaries originated in the Scandinavia countries of Denmark, Norway and Sweden.  In the 1990’s, the ICU nurses began keeping the ICU diary with the purpose of helping their patients come to terms with their illness following being discharged from the hospital.  The diaries were written by the nurses, with the patient’s family contributing as well.  Following being critically ill and being cared for in the intensive care setting, patients were found to be developing psychological problems such as nightmares, hallucinations, delusions, anxiety, depression and symptoms of posttraumatic stress.  The purpose of this study was to compare and describe the emergence and evolution of the intensive care patient diary among the ICU units located in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. 


This study was a meta-analyses comparative international multicenter design.  The qualitative secondary analysis sought to examine data previously developed to describe the practice of keeping intensive care diaries for critically ill patients.  The research questions were: (1) what are the differences and commonalities in using patient diaries in the three Scandinavian countries and (2) how did it start and where are we now? 


The results of the study indicated the diaries were introduced concurrently in Denmark, Norway and Sweden.  The concept of the ICU diary began as a cross-national grass-roots initiative and evolved into an evidence-base knowledge domain of inquire.  Reoccurring terms described the diary as: (1) a therapeutic instrument; (2) an act of caring; (3) an expression of empathy, and (4) a combination of all of the above. 


Diaries have the potential to fulfill the innate needs of the patient who struggles to understand what happened to them and aids them as they constructs their own story of what happened.