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Diaries to the rescue

Thursday, 11 October 2012

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Can a simple diary prevent psychological complications in those who have spent a prolonged period in an intensive care unit (ICU)?

It’s estimated that up to 84 per cent of ICU survivors experience physical and psychological complications which could be diagnosed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), with some never regaining their pre-illness levels of health and well-being.

Ms Bev Ewens, a PhD candidate at Edith Cowan University, is looking for people to participate in her study who have been patients in ICU during the past three months and are willing to share their experiences.

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

There is currently a lack of consensus about the most supportive methods of helping this recovering patient group, Ms Ewens said.

“One intervention that has had some success is the use of patient diaries. If a patient is given a diary, written by friends, family and hospital staff, describing their stay in ICU they can use this to piece together the missing events of their ICU experience,” Ms Ewens said.

Ms Ewen’s study explores the use of diaries during the recuperation period at home, with the aim of filling in some of the blanks they may have, thus reducing any anxiety and stress they may have.

“A life-threatening illness may potentially have the same psychological consequence as exposure to other traumatic events such as natural disasters, military combat and physical assaults,” Ms Ewens said.

“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 and optimise the quality of life.”

To be involved in this study, contact Bev Ewens b.ewens@ecu.edu.au  

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