Barriers and strategies for early mobilization of patients in intensive care units

Rolf Dubb, Peter Nydahl, Carsten Hermes, Norbert Schwabbauer, Amy Toonstra, Ann Parker, Arnold Kaltwasser, Dale Needham

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article


Early mobilization of patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) is safe, feasible, and beneficial. However, implementation of early mobility as part of routine clinical care can be challenging. The objective of this review is to identify barriers to early mobilization and discuss strategies to overcome such barriers. Based on a literature search, we synthesize data from 40 studies reporting 28 unique barriers to earlymobility, of which 14 (50%)were patientrelated, 5 (18%) structural, 5 (18%) ICU cultural, and 4 (14%) process-related barriers. These barriers varied across ICUs and within disciplines, depending on the ICU patient population, setting, attitude, and ICU culture. To overcome the identified barriers, over 70 strategies were reported and are synthesized in this review, including: Implementation of safety guidelines; use of mobility protocols; interprofessional training, education, and rounds; and involvement of physician champions. Systematic efforts to change ICUculture to prioritize early mobilization using an interprofessional approach and multiple targeted strategies are important components of successfully implementing earlymobility in clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)724-730
Number of pages7
JournalAnnals of the American Thoracic Society
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2016



  • Critical care
  • Intensive care
  • Physical therapy
  • Rehabilitation
  • Review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine

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