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The Importance of Early Mobility for Critical Care Patients

September 6, 2023 - Press Release

It’s a cloudy Monday morning and Mark Dawison is lying in his hospital room at Meritus Medical Center. He’s hooked up to a variety of tubes, and the sound of his ventilator hums across the room.

What happens next may seem unexpected; his care team appears with the day’s goal – to get him moving.

The initiation of early mobility is a part of a program implemented by the interdisciplinary team on the Critical Care Unit at Meritus Medical Center.

“If we can get patients moving and exercising sooner, they are able to get stronger faster,” said Julie Coblentz, physical therapist and manager of Meritus Medical Center’s inpatient therapy program.

The Meritus team is working toward getting as many patients moving within the first 48-hours of being on a ventilator as possible.

“Currently, 23% of patients participate in mobility tasks within that 48-hour window, which is up from zero percent prior to the program’s beginning,” Coblentz said.

She added that from July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023, 73% of patients got out of bed or walked while on Meritus’ Critical Care Unit (up from 58% the previous year). Additionally, 29% of patients on a ventilator performed some level of active mobility such as sitting on the edge of the bed, standing or walking. 

 “We have made early mobility a big part of patient care,” Coblentz said. “By doing this, we hope to help patients spend less time in the hospital, have fewer problems and feel better overall,” she added.

Medical experts decide the best patients who will fit into the program based on their health and what they were able to do before they came to the hospital.

“The care is unique for each patient, because everyone is different. The goal is to help these patients move at least once a day, with help from therapy and nursing,” Coblentz said. “We implement early mobility for patients through a variety of activities, such as exercises, moving around in bed, walking and going up stairs, if appropriate. Each patient gets the activities that are just right for them, so everyone's experience is tailored to their individual needs,” she added.

Back in Dawison’s room, his care team is able to get him to move to the side of the bed. He looks up and his thumb inches upward – a ‘thumbs up’ to his team, and to his recovery.

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