The Benefits of Implementing an Early Mobility Protocol in Postoperative Neurosurgical Spine Patients

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Abstract

Background: Despite the known benefits of early postsurgical mobility, there are no clear recommendations on early mobility among uncomplicated postoperative neurosurgical spine patients.

Purpose: The purpose of this quality improvement initiative was to establish an NP-led early mobility protocol to reduce uncomplicated postsurgical spine patients' length of stay (LOS) in the hospital and eliminate the variability of postsurgical care. A secondary objective was to educate and empower nursing staff to initiate the early mobility protocol independently and incorporate it in their practice to improve patient care.

Methods: Two neurosurgery NPs led an interprofessional team to develop the early mobility protocol. Team members provided preadmission preoperative education to communicate the necessity for early mobility and provide information about the protocol. New nursing guidelines called for patient mobility on the day of surgery, within six hours of arrival on the medical–surgical unit. Nurses were empowered to get patients out of bed independently, without a physical therapy consultation; they also removed urinary catheters and discontinued IV opioids when patients' status permitted.

Results: Over a one-year period, implementation of the protocol resulted in a nine-hour reduction in LOS per hospitalization in neurosurgical spine patients who underwent lumbar laminectomies. The protocol also allowed nurses more autonomy in patient care and was a catalyst for patient involvement in their postoperative mobility. Given the success of the protocol, it is being replicated by other surgical services throughout the organization.

Conclusions: This low-cost, high-reward initiative aligns with the strategic plan of the organization and ensures that high-quality, patient-centered care remains the priority. NPs in other institutions can modify this protocol to promote postoperative mobility in their organizations.

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