Delays in early patient mobility are common in critical care areas. Oral intubation with mechanical ventilation is negatively associated with out-of-bed activities.


To explore nurses’ mobility practices for patients with oral intubation and mechanical ventilation and identify barriers related to patient, nurse, and environment-of-care factors specific to this population.


In this cross-sectional, descriptive study in a medical intensive care unit, mobility was defined as standing, sitting in a chair, or walking. A total of 105 patients who met predefined mobility criteria and their 48 nurses were enrolled. Nurses were interviewed about mobility practices at the ends of shifts. Descriptive statistics summarized nurse and patient characteristics and mobility barriers.


Patients were deemed ready to begin mobility within a mean (SD) of 41.5 (34.8) hours after oral endotracheal intubation. Two-thirds of nurses reported that they never or rarely got these patients out of bed. Only 12.4% of patients had a clinician’s activity order. Common patient-related barriers were uncooperative behavior (21.9%) and active medical issues (15%), even in patients who met mobility criteria. Nurse-related barriers were concerns for patient safety, specifically falls (14.3% of patients) and harm (9.5%). The environment of care posed very few barriers; nurses rarely mentioned that lack of help (13.3% of patients) or lack of clinician’s activity order (5.7%) impeded mobility.


Mobility practices were nonexistent in these patients despite patients’ being deemed ready to begin out-of-bed activities. Nurses must be attentive to their unit’s mobility culture to overcome these barriers.

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