Åsa Engström, professor of nursing at Luleå University of Technology. View original picture , opens in new tab/window

Patient Diary provides understanding of the time of care

Published: 21 February 2018

The patient diary is written in order for the patient to gain a better understanding of what they have experienced as severely ill in an intensive care unit. It is also a way for nurses to reflect on the care of severely ill patients. That is results from studies at Luleå University of Technology.

– Diary writing is one of the oldest methods to systematically process strong impressions and feelings. It structures the mind, gives time for reflection and increases well-being, says Åsa Engström, professor in Nursing at Luleå University of Technology.

Processes impressions and feelings

A patient diary is a diary written to the patient who is severely ill-treated and will be cared for for several days. There should be descriptions of what happened after the patient came to the Intensive care ward with treatments, surveys, visits, daily and personal events. Even close relatives are encouraged to write because their texts are extra valuable.

– The patient diary strengthens the relationship between patient and intensive care nurse. The patient also gets a sense of context and increases the ability of staff and relatives to get to know each other, says Åsa Engström.

Understanding strengthens the experience of health

For the patient, the diary provides an understanding and context of what has happened during a time when the patient did not remember anything or had hallucinations that were difficult to distinguish from reality.

– Understanding, manageability and meaningfulness are factors that make people, despite adversity and high stress, retain or maintain the health experience, says Åsa Engström.

For staff, the diary writing provides an opportunity for reflection and communication. It will be a written reflection that promotes critical thinking, systematics and long-term memory. It's about writing directly and personally to the person in a simple language and explain what is happening.

Emotional reading

The studies show that the patient estimates that there is continuity in the writing, personally written and handwritten. The relatives writing turns out to be incredibly valuable and emotional. The patient diary provides a better understanding that rehabilitation can take time and explain everyday things, such as noise that the patient heard but did not understand.

– It may seem hard to read the diary for the first time, as this is an overwhelming time, perhaps life changing and where close relatives expressed how important the person is, says Åsa Engström.

Quote from Patient:

... and then I read my children's notes, they write that they love their mother and that they want me to recover. It's huge you see, to read that they love mom. They have never said that, even if you know, it's good to read those words, do not think they would ever have been told if it was not for the book ...


In the media:


Åsa Engström

Åsa Engström, Professor and Head of Subject

Phone: +46 (0)920 493875
Organisation: Nursing, Division of Nursing and Medical Technology, Department of Health Sciences