Early Physical Therapy Helps ICU Patients


By Christine Whitmarsh, RN, BSN

Physical therapists are needed across a range of specialty areas and departments in hospitals. Intensive care units (ICU’s) are one of the places where PT’s and traveling physical therapists on physical therapy travel job assignment are needed the most. Research and studies are now showing the benefit of early physical therapy in the rehabilitation of critically ill patients in the ICU.

A University of Chicago study showed that patients who underwent physical and occupational regimens of exercise and mobilization within 72 hours of being placed on a ventilator, experienced improved levels of independent function by time they were discharged from the hospital. Patients receiving physical therapy interventions also experienced more days off of ventilators. ICU patients frequently experience long term complications after surviving a life threatening illness, such as weakness and neuropsychiatric diseases. Rehabilitation therapy interventions can help prevent these complications. The interventions in the study included passive range of motion exercises in the extremities of unresponsive patients and in alert patients, assisted range of motion exercises while still in bed. The physical and occupational therapy interventions then progressed to sitting up in bed and performing balance activities, activities of daily living, sitting and standing transfers and eventually ambulation.

The study revealed that there are benefits to incorporating physical and occupational therapy in the treatment of ICU patients. Therapy interventions help to reorient patients who have been sedated on a ventilator. Assisting patients to ambulate early in the ICU led to a decrease in muscle atrophy and an increase in independent function. Traveling physical therapists and travel occupational therapy job seekers with an interest in assisting ICU patients should contact a travel recruiter today to check on the availability of assignments in this area.

Christine Whitmarsh is a Registered Nurse with a BSN from the University of Rhode Island. She is a freelance health journalist and medical writer and a contributor to Travel Nurse Source and Allied Travel Careers.

Author: Allied Travel Careers

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