Resource type: Article

How can I find out more about what happened in Intensive Care?

How can I find out more about what happened in Intensive Care?

It can depend on the type and level of information you’re looking for. Some people are more comfortable with a basic understanding, whereas others prefer to have a more detailed medical explanation. It’s completely up to you. You may find that the type of information you would like changes as you recover. Here are some things you can do that might help.

Ask your family and friends

They will be able to tell you more about their understanding of what happened. This can sometimes be a sensitive topic as they may well be distressed by the experience and may not be ready to “relive” it. They may also be worried about upsetting you or they may worry that they’re unable to give you the answers you’re looking for e.g. in terms of explaining your illness or the medical treatments you will have received.

Diaries in Intensive Care

Some Intensive Care Units encourage the use of diaries,as there is some evidence that this can help patients understand and come to terms with what has happened to them. The diaries are a day to day account of what happened during your time in Intensive Care and can be given to you at a later date.It is usually the nurses and family members who write in the diaries. It is completely up to the family what they want to include in the diary; young grandchildren, for example, can include pictures or cards.Diaries are not for everyone, though,as some people prefer not to hear about their time in Intensive Care.

Refer to your hospital discharge letter (you should have received a copy as you left hospital). This should give a brief outline of your admitting illness and the treatments you received whilst in Intensive Care. The letter is for your GP, however, so it may contain unfamiliar medical and technical terms. We have provided a "dictionary" of medical terms in easily understandable language, which we hope will help you to understand your illness.

Ask your GP to explain things to you

He or she will receive a copy of your hospital discharge letter, but be aware that it can sometimes take several weeks to arrive. The letter can often be very medical or technical in nature and may not help in answering all of your questions. Having an illness that resulted in being admitted to Intensive Care is also comparatively rare, so your GP may not be fully aware of some of the physical, psychological and emotional problems that patients can sometimes have afterwards. Sometimes patients themselves do not realise that some of the problems they have might be due to having spent time in Intensive Care. We have therefore put together a list of common problems (link to page here) and, what we hope is some useful advice.

Ask to visit the Intensive Care Unit

Ask to see your medical notes

There will be a formal procedure and, in some instances, a small fee involved if you would like to access your medical notes (link to guidance here).  It may be helpful to do this as part of your visit to the Intensive Care and/or your consultation with a member of staff as they will be able to explain some of the medical terms and treatments and answer any questions you may have.