Perception, experience and knowledge of early physiotherapy in intensive care units of Rome: a survey

Monaldi Arch Chest Dis. 2020 Dec 30;90(4). doi: 10.4081/monaldi.2020.1412.


Early physiotherapy (EP) programs on critically ill patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) have proven to be safe, feasible and effective. However, despite being considered by all the professionals involved as a fundamental aspect of integrated care, in most cases they are inadequately applied or not performed at all. The main objective of this study is to evaluate the knowledge, perceptions and activities related to EP among physician, nurses and physiotherapists who practice in ICUs of Rome. Obstacles to its application and possible strategies to overcome them are also examined. The study was conducted according to the CHERRIES recommendations. Two questionnaires with 29 questions were created on the Google Form platform and were sent by mail to all the ICUs of public hospitals or accredited private hospitals with the National Health Service in Rome. Thirty (60%) of the contacted ICUs responded. The physiotherapist is present in 76.7% of ICUs and carries out its activities mainly during daytime hours (60.9%), for less than 3 hours in 39.1% of cases and only after a request for specialist advice (65.2%). Only in 4.3% of cases the service is guaranteed even at weekends but only after a request. All 29 professionals interviewed consider both the presence of a physiotherapist within the interdisciplinary team of the ICU and the implementation of an EP program to be necessary, supporting the positive effects of this program. The most frequently obstacles to the implementation of an EP program are clinical instability (69%), low priority to EP practice (62.1%), cardiovascular instability (58.6%) and lack of experience (58.6%). The most frequently indicated strategies to overcome these obstacles are to organize interdisciplinary briefings (86.2%), to avoid excluding patients from treatment without specific motivation (75.9%), to invest in staff training (75.9%), to use protocols and guidelines (58.6%). EP is not currently exploited to its full potential due to lack of funds, culture, experience, training and a hospital organization that limits the provision of effective patient care and efficient service to the National Health Service.

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care / organization & administration*
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / organization & administration*
  • Perception
  • Physical Therapists / organization & administration*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities / psychology*
  • Rome
  • State Medicine
  • Surveys and Questionnaires