Long-term survival of mechanically ventilated patients has contributed to the unintended consequence of increased weakness and decreased muscle strength. Previous authors have determined that, after 1 week of bed rest, muscle strength decreases by as much as 20%, with an additional 20% decrease in strength each successive week.1 Muscle weakness contributes to difficulty in weaning from mechanical ventilation and increased length of hospital stay.

Increasing mobility in intensive care unit patients, particularly those on mechanical ventilation, requires a team effort.

Consider the following:

  • Become a champion for increasing mobility in your ICU patients.

  • Do a literature search on the effects of prolonged immobilization, especially as it relates to your patient population.

  • Provide a collaborative inservice with physical therapists to demonstrate activities that can help maintain muscle strength even for patients on bed rest.

  • Discuss early mobility protocols with your nurse manager and...

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