28 December 2023

Patient diaries, with a foreword from children’s author Michael Rosen, have made an enormous difference to the care of critically ill patients at the Trust which runs the county’s acute hospitals.

The diaries provide patients with an opportunity to read about the events around their critical illness through the eyes of the multi-disciplinary team and their loved ones at The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust (SaTH).

A simple exercise book diary was introduced by a small team of nurses in the Intensive Therapy Unit (ITU), before the pandemic.

When Katie Craft joined the team as a therapy assistant practitioner, she recognized the benefits of more structure within the book for ITU patients and began developing a new diary.

With 23 years of experience as a psychiatric nurse, Katie (pictured) understood how important this was for the patients. She said: “The diary helps patients have a better understanding of the chronological events of their illness and it fills the inevitable gaps in their memory. It is also an invaluable tool for setting realistic rehab goals for recovery.”

Katie consulted with the Critical Care team to gather their thoughts on the existing diary. Some colleagues had refrained from writing in the diaries, fearing it would distress the patients. To address this concern, Katie reached out to children’s author Michael Rosen, asking him to write a foreword for the new diary based on his own experiences.

Michael Rosen publicly expressed his support for patient diaries after his own admission to hospital with COVID-19 in 2020. Having spent most of his stay in an induced coma, he was unaware of what exactly had happened to him. He said: “I was overwhelmed by the kindness, care and the thoughtful treatment the nurses gave me. I love the way they ‘unfold’ in front of me, relating how I’m struggling to stay alive.”

With the new foreword in place, SaTH Charity funded the new diaries, and Katie now provides training to new clinicians, highlighting the benefits of incorporating the diary into patient care. The diaries have not only proved helpful to the patients, but also to the families.

Claire Evans experienced the positive impact of the diaries when her father was in the ITU.

Claire said: “Each day we could read dad’s progress, his recovery milestones, funny stories the staff had shared and, if he had a bad day, they wrote about how dad was feeling.

“For his grandchildren, they could use the time in the waiting room to write in the journal and let their grandad know how much they loved and missed him.”

Sadly, Claire’s father passed away, but for the family, even now, the diaries bring them great comfort. Claire added: “Looking back at the diaries it makes me incredibly proud of my dad and how hard he fought, the last pictures they took were of him looking so pleased with himself for completing his cycling rehab, we are so grateful to have those pictures now.

“I would advise other families to take the pictures, write in the diary, sit and reflect and make lots of notes and memories. I had hoped to read through the diaries with dad and show him what a battle he had fought and won, but I feel very glad to have a diary full of precious memories of the time we spent together at the end.”

Hayley Flavell, Director of Nursing, said: “Claire’s experience with the diaries highlights just how important this is and how it is making a real difference to our patients and their families. A huge thank you to Katie and the Critical Care and ITU teams for developing the ITU Patient Diary and to SaTH Charity for supporting.”