Making of a Successful Early Mobilization Program for a Medical Intensive Care Unit

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To provide a guideline for intensive care unit (ICU) early mobilization program development and implementation and to describe the patient characteristics and endpoints for those who participated in our hospital’s early mobilization program.


An ICU early mobilization program was developed with five guiding principles: analgesia/sedation optimization, sedation minimization, protocol of progressive mobility, physical therapy and occupational therapy recruitment, and nursing education. This program began in April 2014, and the initial 32 patients who ambulated while receiving mechanical ventilation were retrospectively assessed and their characteristics described.


After program implementation, more than 50 mechanically ventilated patients ambulated in the first year following early mobilization initiation. Patients with an FiO2 as high as 1.0 and on nonconventional modes of mechanical ventilation successfully ambulated without adverse events. The mean ambulation distance was 102 ± 152 f. and usually required three ICU staff members with 5 to 10 minutes of preparation before ambulation. After implementation, a retrospective analysis revealed a decrease in the average length of ICU stay, from 4.8 to 4.1 days.


Addressing analgesia and sedation practices, along with instituting a progressive mobility protocol and recruiting physical and occupational therapy, may serve as a guide to the creation of a successful early mobilization program. This study provides additional supportive evidence that early mobilization in the ICU is safe and effective.

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