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Early Mobility Therapy in the Intensive Care Unit Research Paper


Early mobilization therapy issue became an area of concern after researchers discovered the negative consequences of bed rest following a sickness or trauma. These consequences can be versatile and dangerous for a patient’s health condition. The most prominent of them are cardiovascular deconditioning, increased risk of pressure ulcer development, muscle weakness and atrophy, neurological dysfunction. Thus, the given reasons are enough to support the need for developing an EBP project in this area (Patel, Pohlman, Hall, & Kress, 2014).

The nursing issue that has been chosen is the early mobility in the intensive care unit (ICU). Particularly, the advantages and the disadvantages of the early mobility therapy compared to the non-early mobility therapy for patients who are in intensive care will be analyzed. The reason for choosing this particular topic is that it is a significantly important issue in nursing practice. However, the amount of evidence that has studied the early mobilization of seriously ill patients is rather small. A few randomized and controlled researches have been conducted including only several hundred patients which significantly limits the strength of the evidence.

Therefore, since the early mobilization therapy is considered safe and feasible, it is important to pay more attention to it (Schaller et al., 2016). Thus, this assignment consists of the following sections: Introduction, The Connection between FNP and Early Mobility Therapy, Nursing Issue, PICO Question, Research Literature Support, Theoretical Framework and Change Model, Research Approach and Design, Sampling Method, Conclusion, and References.

The Connection Between FNP and Early Mobility Therapy

The specialty track that has been chosen is the Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP). FNPs are advanced practice nurses who work autonomously or in cooperation with other healthcare professionals to provide family-focused care. They provide a wide range of healthcare services for particular family units on the long-term basis. FNPs’ objective is to promote health, prevent diseases, treat patients, and counsel them across the lifespan. The role of an FNP in the early mobility therapy in the ICU is significant. FNPs look after patients when they are in intensive care. In this regard, they can help implement the early mobility therapy during the treatment of their patients (Bernhardt, 2017).

Thus, depending on the type of illness or injury, FNPs can determine whether to use early or non-early mobility therapy on their patients. Although in general, early mobility therapy helps prevent negative consequences caused by bed rest, in certain cases, it can lead to the relapse of a disease or to the opening of an undertreated wound. Therefore, FNPs’ purpose is to decide whether this therapy will harm a patient in a particular case or improve patient’s health, accelerate the healing process, and help avoid pernicious consequences connected with the non-early mobility therapy (Clark, Lowman, Griffin, Matthews, & Reiff, 2013).

Nursing Issue

The nursing issue on which this project is focused is the early mobility program in the ICU. There has recently been an increase in the movement to begin research that focuses on the physical therapy utilization within the ICU establishment and the outcomes of the early intervention program with patients within this establishment. Progressive or early mobilization includes a system of movements that increase the activity of a patient beginning with the passive set of movements and ending with the independent ambulation. After the implementation of the early mobility therapy, patients will begin a special movement therapy in 24-48 hours after the mechanical ventilation (Schaller et al., 2016).

The early mobility therapy had not been implemented until recently. For several years, many studies were conducted in order to identify the advantages and disadvantages of this therapy. Eventually, a couple of years ago, some hospitals started to implement it. Thus, as for the frequency of the occurrence of this therapy, it is not frequent, as it is a new therapy, but those who have started to use it demonstrate chiefly the positive results (Reade & Finfer, 2014).

The initiation of the therapy begins after the establishment of the clearance from a physician or a medical team responsible for the ICU patients (approximately a week) and after the occupational therapy and/or the physical therapy has been consulted. Currently, numerous attempts are being made to launch more trials of the early mobility therapy for the ICU patients in combination with the interruption of sedation during the therapy time. In this regard, this therapy becomes more frequent, and it may soon be fully introduced in nursing practice (Engel, Tatebe, Alonzo, Mustille, & Rivera, 2013).

Additionally, the implementation of the early mobilization protocol requires a multidisciplinary approach that includes collaboration between physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, rehabilitation therapists, and administrators. Thus, this issue will engage all stakeholders, including improvement team leaders, senior leaders, and frontline staff who will be involved in the process of its implementation (Schaller et al., 2016).

Thus, this project will attempt to present evidence on the advantages and the disadvantages of the early mobility therapy in the ICU in contrast to the non-early mobility therapy. The rationale for choosing this particular nursing issue is that it is important and relevant now and requires much attention and effort on the side of all the stakeholders in order to be successfully implemented in nursing practice. Additionally, due to the lack of practical evidence of the positives and negatives of the early mobilization therapy, it is crucial to conduct further research on this issue in order to accelerate its overall implementation. Moreover, this therapy has already proved to be safe and efficacious (Bernhardt, 2017).

PICO Question

Currently, the problem of the implementation of the early mobility therapy in the ICU is relevant. Many types of research have been made since the first attempts to introduce this new program. Recent literature supports the need for this program, stating that it will help avoid the undesirable effects that can be caused by a long bed rest and improve patient’s health (Reade & Finfer, 2014).

Based on the identified need for the early mobility therapy development in the ICU and the current relevance of the identified nursing issue the following PICO question is created to guide this project: In severely ill or injured patient in the ICU does early mobilization therapy results in ameliorated functional state and decrease ICU stay as compared to the non-early mobilization therapy? The main criterion for the search was the scholarly or peer-reviewed articles and journals using reliable databases like CINAHL, EBSCO, Medline Complete, PubMed and Google Scholar Search. The key terms used in the literature search were critically ill patients, early ambulation, early mobility, bed rest, intensive care units, physical therapy, quality improvements, rehabilitation, therapy, and mechanical ventilation.

Research Literature Support

Leditschke, Green, Irvine, Bissett, and Mitchell (2012) conducted a quantitative study with the purpose of finding out the benefits of early mobilization of critically ill patients in the ICU and identifying the frequency of this therapy. The research was a 4-week prospective audit on 106 patients from a mixed medical-surgical tertiary ICU, whose mean age was 60 years, median ICU length of stay was one day, and median hospital length of stay was 12.5 days. They were subject to: 1) active mobilization, which consisted in marching on the spot for more than 30 seconds); 2) active transfer from bed to chair; 3) passive transfer.

The researchers collected de-identified data on the number of days the patient was mobilized, the type of mobilization used, adverse factors, and reasons mobilization could not take place. It was found out that participants were mobilized on 176 of 327 days spent in ICU. There were 2 adverse events that occurred during 176 mobilization episodes (1.1%). It was concluded that it was possible to mobilize critically ill patients for the majority of days of their stay in the ICU starting from the first (which supports the PICO of the study at hand). The key strength of the study is its scope and practical recommendations. Its major limitation is that no evidence proves that early mobilization is more effective than non-early therapy. The solution is to perform a similar study to compare the effects of the two approaches.

Engel, Needham, Morris, and Gropper, (2013) performed a qualitative study of three selected medical centers as for the success of their ICU early mobilization programs. The major purpose of the research was to compare and contrast the impact an early mobility program produced on severely ill patients in three hospitals. The researchers used an interprofessional approach based on teamwork. As a result, the length of stay was reduced both in the ICU and in general care. Moreover, in all the three medical centers, this intervention also managed to lower the level of delirium and practically eliminated the need for sedation for the participants.

This allowed concluding that ICU early mobility quality improvement program is capable of improving patient outcomes, which supports the PICO. The strength is that the described program can easily be applied to other types care units. Yet, there are no exact numeric indicators of the improvement, which is a limitation. The solution is to conduct a quantitative study to obtain statistical evidence.

Sricharoenchai, Parker, Zanni, Nelliot, Dinglas, and Needham (2014) conducted a prospective observational study aimed to identify whether it is safe to use early mobilization therapy interventions in the ICU for reducing impaired physical functioning. The data was collected from the medical records of the John Hopkins Hospital Medical ICU, and analyzed using descriptive statistics. The authors of the study explored how often and under what conditions some of 12 kinds of physiological abnormalities and safety risks presented by the implementation of mobilization therapy could appear.

As a result of the experiment, 1787 patients with an ICU stay lasting minimum 24 hours, 1110 (62%) took part in 5267 mobilization sessions. All sessions were organized and performed by 10 therapists during 4580 days. A total of 34 (0.6%) of these sessions revealed safety risks or physiological abnormalities. None of these required any additional costs or prolonged stay, which supports the effectiveness of the therapy indicated in the PICO. The strength of the study is its large sample size, increasing the trustworthiness of the experiment. Its limitation is that only one hospital was involved in the research. The solution is to repeat the experiment in other hospitals which will include the influence of clinical factors as a variable.

Lord et al. (2013) performed a quantitative study based on a meta-analysis of data collected from published research articles and from the actual implementation of the program in the Medical ICU of the John Hopkins Hospital, and created their own model of net financial savings. The researchers’ major goal was to evaluate how much annual costs implementation of the ICU early mobilization therapy allows saving.

The main point of the article consisted in financial modeling of results for the implementation of the early mobilization program. The researcher presented the results of using the developed model for ICUs with 200, 600, 900, and 2,000 annual admissions. It was identified that $817,836 of cost savings could be achieved through the implementation of the program in the example scenario with 900 patients per year. These savings were generated through stay reductions of 22% (for ICU) and 19% (for floor). This implies that the program indeed allows saving costs through the amelioration of patients’ condition (which again supports the PICO).

The key strength of the study is that a new model was developed that relies on actual experiments of the program implementation. The limitation is that there is hardly any novelty except the implementation of a new tool. The solution would be to apply the same tool to compare the effects of different types of mobilization therapy as this may give unprecedented results.

Theoretical Framework and Change Model

For the purpose of this project, Lewin’s Change Theory was selected as a theoretical framework as it provides a method to successfully implement a planned change (the one occurring by design). The main concepts of the theory are field and force. The former is a system, which means that in case one of its elements changes, the whole body of it is affected. Change is viewed in a disrupted balance of driving and restraining forces.

While a driving force initiates movement or shift towards transformation, a restraining force is the one hindering the process. In case of the early mobility issue, the driving forces include: educational programs for staff and patients, evidence-based literature supporting early mobilization, administration support, etc. Restraining forces are numerous: patients’ reluctance to try early mobilization as a part of general resistance to change, nurses’ unwillingness due to the fear of accident extubation, patients’ delirium, oversedation, lack of specific policies and comprehensive programs, etc.

Thus, according to the chosen theory, it is needed to:

  1. unfreeze the status quo;
  2. gradually introduce changes;
  3. freeze the change making it durable by assimilating in the system (Shirey, 2013).

Success and sustainability of the project intervention will be ensured by the capability of the framework to allow better understanding of patients’ needs and fears and developing an implementation plan in accordance with these factors. An education program will be required to integrate early mobilization into practice since it cannot simply be imposed upon ICU patients if they opt for non-early intervention or no mobility at all. Lewin’s framework will make it possible to change the entire system through an individual change.

The implementation of the proposed change will be guided by Logic Model for Program Development since it allows planning the desired outputs, outcomes, and the general impact of the change in advance. The model also makes it possible to measure both patients’ and nurses’ knowledge concerning the benefits of early mobilization in the ICU in order to assess what training will be required (Chen, 2014).

Research Approach and Design

Since the research goal is to answer whether a severely ill or injured patient will have an ameliorated functional state and a decreased stay in hospital with the realization of the early mobilization therapy compared to the non-early mobilization therapy, it would be reasonable to opt for a quantitative approach. The design is going to be quasi-experimental because non-probability sampling will be used (as discussed below).

It will test a hypothesis through an intervention, the impact of which will be the major focus of the study. Furthermore, the study is required to look for the ways to improve condition of real patients. The choice of this approach is accounted by the fact that it allows for controlling the study conditions using precise measures and strict regulations of all variables. The major advantage of the quantitative study is that it is possible to generalize the results from a sample to a larger group of the population. Yet, there is also a disadvantage: The research design does not allow for discovering anything new since it is purely deductive.

Ampling Method

The target population that the study is going to address will include severely ill or injured patients from 25 to 65 years of age undergoing treatment in the ICU. Non-probability sampling will be used, which is supported by the fact that only patients of a particular age group who currently suffer from acute diseases or injuries will be eligible to participate in the research. This type of sampling was selected due to the fact that it allows researchers to focus on a particular group of patients (as it would be wrong to involve patients from the general care unit in the same experiment).

The following steps will constitute the sampling procedure:

  • establishing eligibility criteria;
  • choosing a random sample of patients from 25 to 65 undergoing treatment in the ICU;
  • informing the participants about the goals of the research and obtaining their informed consent;
  • collecting background information about the participants in order to decide on variables;
  • dividing the patients into the control (receiving non-early mobilization therapy) and intervention groups (undergoing early mobilization); each group will include approximately 50 participants.

The two major advantages of this sampling procedure is that: 1) non-probability sampling implies that only patients meeting the criteria will be able to participate–therefore, the intervention will be thoroughly controlled and the results will be precise; 2) at the same time, randomized trial will eliminate bias. Yet, there is also a disadvantage: Non-probability samplings practically do not take into account extraneous variables, which can be influential.

Institutional Review Board help researchers protect participants’ rights relying on the following principles:

  • obtaining an informed consent;
  • respecting confidentiality and privacy;
  • discussing the limits of confidentiality (informing participants what data will be made public and how it will be used) and preventing their violation;
  • informing participants about federal and state laws that protect their rights.

It should also be noted that in order to protect the rights of the participants, their names will not be included in the data which will be published. The patients will be assigned IDs, which will be used with the purpose of case identification, will only be known to the researchers, and only for a limited amount of time: when the data analysis procedure is fully complete, the information identifying cases with patients will be eliminated.


All in all, the roles of FNPs in early mobility therapy were explained; the problem of early mobility therapy was discussed, noting that it has been shown to generally provide better patient outcomes; and a PICO question pertaining to early mobility therap was provided. A review of research literature demonstrated that early mobilization was generally found out to be more effective than non-mobilization therapy, and that its implementation could allow for saving considerable amounts of money. For the current study, it was proposed to use Lewin’s Change Theory and the Logic Model for Program Development as theoretical frameworks, and to conduct a quasi-experimental study comparing patient outcomes pertaining to early mobilization therapy in a treatment and a control group.

Interestingly, it has long been unclear whether early or non-early mobilization therapy is preferable for patients in the ICU as the former might lead to aggravation of the patient’s condition whereas the latter is usually less effective. The role of FNPs is crucial since they must decide whether the selected therapy will harm a patient or improve their overall health.

However, according to the results of the experiments conducted by other researchers, it was found out that early mobilization therapy brings about the expected improvements in most cases, which means that the outcomes for this project proposal can be expected to be positive.


Bernhardt, J. (2017). Early mobilisation and rehabilitation in the intensive care unit–Ready for implementation? Annals of Translational Medicine, 5(3), 57-59. Web.

Chen, H. T. (2014). Practical program evaluation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Web.

Clark, D. E., Lowman, J. D., Griffin, R. L., Matthews, H. M., & Reiff, D. A. (2013). Effectiveness of an early mobilization protocol in a trauma and burns the intensive care unit: A retrospective cohort study. Physical Therapy, 93(2), 186-196. Web.

Engel, H. J., Needham, D. M., Morris, P. E., & Gropper, M. A. (2013). ICU early mobilization: From recommendation to implementation at three medical centers. Critical Care Medicine, 41(9), S69-S80. Web.

Engel, H. J., Tatebe, S., Alonzo, P. B., Mustille, R. L., & Rivera, M. J. (2013). Physical therapist–established the intensive care unit early mobilization program: Quality improvement project for critical care at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center. Physical Therapy, 93(7), 975-985. Web.

Leditschke, I. A., Green, M., Irvine, J., Bissett, B., & Mitchell, I. A. (2012). What are the barriers to mobilizing intensive care patients? Cardiopulmonary Physical Therapy Journal, 23(1), 26-29. Web.

Lord, R. K., Mayhew, C. R., Korupolu, R., Mantheiy, E. C., Friedman, M. A., Palmer, J. B., & Needham, D. M. (2013). ICU early physical rehabilitation programs: Financial modeling of cost savings. Critical Care Medicine, 41(3), 717-724. Web.

Patel, B. K., Pohlman, A. S., Hall, J. B., & Kress, J. P. (2014). Impact of early mobilization on glycemic control and ICU-acquired weakness in critically ill patients who are mechanically ventilated. CHEST Journal, 146(3), 583-589. Web.

Reade, M. C., & Finfer, S. (2014). Sedation and delirium in the intensive care unit. New England Journal of Medicine, 370(5), 444-454. Web.

Schaller, S. J., Anstey, M., Blobner, M., Edrich, T., Grabitz, S. D., Gradwohl-Matis, I.,… Lee, J. (2016). Early, goal-directed mobilisation in the surgical the intensive care unit: A randomised controlled trial. The Lancet, 388(10052), 1377-1388. Web.

Shirey, M. R. (2013). Lewin’s theory of planned change as a strategic resource. Journal of Nursing Administration, 43(2), 69-72. Web.

Sricharoenchai, T., Parker, A. M., Zanni, J. M., Nelliot, A., Dinglas, V. D., & Needham, D. M. (2014). Safety of physical therapy interventions in critically ill patients: A single-center prospective evaluation of 1110 intensive care unit admissions. Journal of Critical Care, 29(3), 395-400. Web.

Week 4: Research Design and Sampling Assignment Grading Grid—Instructor Only

A quality paper will meet or exceed all of the above requirements.
Points Earned Comments
Refinement of Nursing Issue Into Research Assignment paper revisions (end of Week Two assignment)
  • Refinement of Nursing Issue Into Research Assignment paper (end of Week Two assignment) is revised based on faculty feedback
  • All corrections for each section of the paper have been completed
  • Week 2 assignment paper conclusion has been removed
  • Research Literature, Framework, Research Design Approach and Sampling Assignment (end of Week 4 assignment) has been added to the bottom of the Refinement of Nursing Issue into Research (Week Two’s Assignment) but before the reference list
30 30 Presentation of information was exceptional and included all the required elements:
Research Literature Support
  • Discuss each research article presented in the Research Critique Table (Week Three assignment); one paragraph for each article
  • Include the following information presented within each research article: purpose, research approach/design, data collection methods, results, strengths and limitation of the study.
  • Identify additional literature to support selected PICOT/PICo question or proposed solution
20 18 Presentation of information was good but superficial in some areas
Theoretical Framework and Change Model
  • Identify the theoretical framework that will be used in this project
  • Describe how the theoretical framework is useful to the selected PICOT/PICo question
  • Identify the change model and the steps/stages that are used within the model to implement a change
  • Describe how the selected change model is useful to the PICOT/PICo question
  • Discuss how using a theoretical framework and a change model will promote success and sustainability of the project
20 20 Presentation of information was exceptional and included all the required elements:
Research Approach
  • Identify if the project is to use a quantitative or qualitative approach
  • If it is quantitative: identify if the design is experimental, quasi-experimental or descriptive
  • If it is qualitative: identify if the design is phenomenological, ethnography, grounded theory, historical
  • Describe the selected design
  • Provide a rationale for selected design
  • Describe ONE advantage to selected design
  • Describe ONE disadvantage to selected design
20 20 Presentation of information was exceptional and included all the required elements:
  • Describe the target population
  • Identify if the project is to use probability or nonprobability sampling
  • Provide a complete description of the sampling procedure including sample size
  • Identify TWO advantages to the selected sampling procedure
  • Identify ONE disadvantage to the selected sampling procedure
  • Explain how participant’s rights will be protected (i.e. confidentiality, anonymity, protection from harm)
20 20 Presentation of information was exceptional and included all the required elements.
  • Provides a summary of key elements from paper
  • Identifies expected outcomes for the project proposal based on assignment content
10 9 Presentation of information was good but superficial
Paper specifications
  • Paper does not exceed 6 pages
  • Minimum of 2 (two) scholarly nursing references related to this content
  • A dictionary, required textbook for this course and Chamberlain College of Nursing lesson information, may NOT be used as scholarly references for this assignment.
  • References are current – within a 5-year time frame unless a valid rationale is provided and the instructor has approved them.
5 5 Included all required information
APA format (6thedition)
  • Title page, body of paper, and reference page must follow APA guidelines as found in the 6thedition of the manual.
  • One deduction for each type of APA style error
10 10 0-1 APA error was present
Citations in text
  • Ideas and information that come from readings must be cited and referenced correctly.
5 5 There were 0-1 errors on the crediting of ideas, and information that contributed to knowledge
Writing mechanics
  • Rules of grammar, spelling, word usage, and punctuation are followed and consistent with formal written work as found in the 6thedition of the APA manual.
5 5 1-2 errors or exceptions to the rules of grammar, spelling, word usage, punctuation and other aspects of formal written work found in the 6th edition of the APA manual
Total 145 142 = Your Score
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