Several studies have investigated the impact of diaries in adult ICUs, which have been used as a tool to support recall and reduce post-traumatic stress disorder in patients and their families. We conducted a scoping review to determine the definition of ICU diaries, and the extent, range, and nature of research conducted on NICU and PICU diaries, describe their use and impact, as well as identify gaps in knowledge and areas for future research.
The following databases were searched from inception to March 2022: Cumulated Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Cochrane Library, Embase, PubMed, and American Psychological Association PsycINFO. Searches were also conducted in the following gray literature databases: Google Scholar, University of South Australia, and WorldCat.
All studies that discussed the use and impact of diaries or journals involving patients (<18 yr old) in PICUs and NICUs and/or their family members were included.
Sixteen studies were identified. Most studies defined diaries as daily entries written by nurses and/or family members regarding the patient’s condition during their ICU admission. The majority reported that diaries were beneficial to children and their families as they helped to fill in memory gaps, provided a means to express their feelings, and served as effective health communication tools. Several gaps were identified: extent of the use of diaries as a means of communication, the significance of diaries as a coping mechanism for bereaved parents, and the impact of PICU diaries on the children, their families, and healthcare professionals.
There is a paucity of data on the use of NICU and PICU diaries. Nonetheless, the limited data revealed that NICU and PICU diaries were beneficial to children and their families. Our review demonstrated a heterogeneity in the terminology, content, use of photos, and the author/s of the NICU and PICU diaries. Further research is needed to investigate the impact of the use of NICU and PICU diaries on patient-reported outcomes.