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Critical Care  2013 

Phenomenologic analysis of healthcare worker perceptions of intensive care unit diaries

DOI: 10.1186/cc11938

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We used a phenomenologic approach to conduct a qualitative study of 36 semistructured interviews in a medical-surgical ICU in a 460-bed tertiary hospital.Two domains of perception were assessed: reading and writing in the diaries. These two domains led to four main themes in the ICU workers' perceptions: suffering of the families; using the diary as a source of information for families but also as generating difficulties in writing bad news; determining the optimal interpersonal distance with the patient and relatives; and using the diary as a tool for constructing a narrative of the patient's ICU stay.The ICU workers thought that the diary was beneficial in communicating the suffering of families while providing comfort and helping to build the patient's ICU narrative. They reported strong emotions related to the diaries and a perception of intruding into the patients' and families' privacy when reading the diaries. Fear of strong emotional investment may adversely affect the ability of ICU workers to perform their duties optimally. ICU workers are in favor of ICU diaries, but activation by the diaries of emotions among younger ICU workers may require specific support.Patient diaries were first used in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway, and then introduced several decades later in other European countries, such as the UK, Switzerland, and, finally, France [1]. Diary entries were found to fall into four main categories: sharing the story, sharing the presence, sharing feelings, and sharing through support [2]. The multiple roles of diaries kept for ICU patients include reconstruction of the illness narrative [3], communication of caring intent [4], debriefing to deal with posttraumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) [5], and the promotion of family healing [3]. ICU diaries have been reported to help in the transition of patients from critical illness to normalcy [2,5-8].We previously evaluated the effect of an ICU diary on the well-being of patients and families and found that th


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