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ABCDEs of ICU: Early Mobility

Dang, Stephanie L. MSN, RN, ACNS-BC

doi: 10.1097/CNQ.0b013e318283cf45
Original Articles

The intensive care unit (ICU) provides a critical level of care to medically unstable patients. Patients need intensive monitoring and treatment that may require emergency interventions. The vulnerability and complexity of the ICU unintentionally creates an environment that limits and poorly defines the intervention of early mobility in the unstable critically ill patients. The short- and long-term effects of immobility and bed rest increase acute complications, the length of stay in the ICU and hospital, and mortality and morbidity rates. According to current research, instituting early mobility programs can improve patient outcomes. Current research has demonstrated the safety and feasibility of the initiation of early mobility programs in the critically ill. The benefits to patients enhance recovery of functional exercise capacity, weaning outcomes, self-perceived functional status, and muscle force and strength. Consequently, patient's length of stay in the ICU and in hospital decreases and improves health outcomes. The scope of practice for nurses and other health care providers should guide by evidenced-based research to reduce complications and enhance patient outcomes. Further research is necessary to establish and institute policies and protocols on early mobility programs in the ICU to direct patient care. The role of the clinical nurse specialist can contribute by conducting evidence-based research, educating health care providers and patients, and implementing protocols. The hope is to change the culture of the ICU for the better.

School of Nursing, The University of Texas at Austin.

Correspondence: Stephanie L. Dang, MSN, RN, ACNS-BC, School of Nursing, The University of Texas, 1710 Red River St, Austin, TX 78701 (

The author has disclosed that she has no significant relationships with, or financial interest in, any commercial companies pertaining to this article.

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.