Physical therapy in the ICU


Working in the ICU many of our patients are on bedrest for an average minimum of 2 days, with many as long as weeks and months. As a critical care RN, my main focus is keeping the patient hemodynamically stable and thus the musculoskeletal system takes a back seat. However, eventually once the patient is more stable, physical reconditioning takes place. When is the right time?

I think the answer is as soon as possible! I read a research study that stated one day of muscle atrophy from bedrest can take a week of physical therapy to regain. This statistic shocked me and as a result I have tried to be more cognizant of the need for physical therapy for my patients. As an advocate for my patients I try to discuss the need for physical therapy during interdisciplinary rounds as early as possible. Also, when the physical therapist is working with patients I listen so I can learn ROM exercises that I can help them perform. For our chronically ill patients that have been on bedrest for weeks or months, I attempt to do simple exercises with them such as resistance or stretching as they can tolerate. However, there are times when I simply do not have time to consistently work with them, and the physical therapists are usually stretched thin and can only visit once a day. With this said, how can the void be filled?

I feel that family is the best option. As nurses and physical therapists we need to include the family in learning and teaching exercises. Research shows that families cope better when they are involved in their loved one’s care. They are at the bedside often times most of the day and it has been my experience that they are more than happy to assist in patient care.  Involving the family early in bedside care can also help with the transition home.

I would be interested to hear what others think and what interventions they implement to help their patients recondition. I also want to know what healthcare informatics resources are available for the nurses and the families.

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One Response to “Physical therapy in the ICU”

  1. gilbert az physical therapist Says:

    gilbert az physical therapist…

    […]Physical therapy in the ICU « Healthcare Informatics Resources[…]…

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