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Overcoming barriers to the mobilisation of patients in an intensive care unit

Intensive Care Unit, Royal Adelaide Hospital, Adelaide, South Australia


We conducted a quality improvement project aimed at increasing the frequency of mobilisation in our ICU. We designed a four-part quality improvement project comprising: an audit documenting the baseline frequency of mobilisation; a staff survey evaluating perceptions of the barriers to mobilisation; identification of barriers that were amenable to change and implementation of strategies to address these; and a follow-up audit to determine their effectiveness. The setting was a tertiary care, urban, public hospital ICU in South Australia. All patients admitted to the ICU during the two audit periods were included in the audits, while all permanent/semi-permanent ICU staff were eligible for inclusion in the staff survey. We found that patient- and institution-related factors had the greatest impact on the mobilisation of patients in our ICU. Barriers identified as being amenable to change included insufficient staff education about the benefits of mobilisation, poor interdisciplinary communication and lack of leadership regarding mobilisation. Various strategies were implemented to address these barriers over a three-month period. Multivariable analyses showed that three out of four mobility outcomes did not significantly change between the baseline and follow-up audits, with a significant difference in favour of the baseline audit found for the fourth mobility outcome (maximum level of mobility). We concluded that implementing relatively simple measures to improve staff education, interdisciplinary communication and leadership regarding early progressive mobilisation was ineffective at improving mobility outcomes for patients in a large tertiary-level Australian ICU. Other strategies, such as changing sedation practices and/or increasing staffing, may be required to improve mobility outcomes of these patients.

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