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Uptake and impact of journaling program on wellbeing of NICU parents



This pilot study evaluated a brief parent journaling program in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Study design

Hundred NICU parents were randomized to a control group (no journal) or an intervention group (journal provided). Parents reported pre- and post-intervention anxiety and depression symptoms using the hospital anxiety and depression scale (HADS) and qualitative journal use data. The analysis included Student’s paired two-tailed t-test and two-way ANOVA. This study was registered with on April 1, 2020, NCT04331925.


At baseline, clinically significant anxiety was more prevalent than depression (66% vs. 23%). Post-intervention scores were best predicted by baseline scores. Relative to controls, intervention group parents experienced a decrease in anxiety from baseline (t = −1.983, p = 0.056). The same effect was not seen for depression. Most intervention group parents used the journal and provided positive feedback.


Journal use rates and positive feedback support the acceptability of a NICU journaling program.

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This study was supported by the Mildred Stahlman Division of Neonatology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Statistical support was provided by the Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research.


This study was funded by Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (VR52927) and the John and Leslie Hooper Neonatal-Perinatal Endowment Fund.

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Authors and Affiliations



ASW, ZEW, and LNR conceptualized and designed the study. ASW and LNR drafted the initial manuscript. LNR collected data. All authors played a critical role in study development and reviewed and revised the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Laura N. Russell.

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The authors declare no competing interest.

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Russell, L.N., Gregory, M.L., Warren, Z.E. et al. Uptake and impact of journaling program on wellbeing of NICU parents. J Perinatol 41, 2057–2062 (2021).

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