Current Physiotherapy Practice in Intensive Care Units Needs Cultural and Organizational Changes: An Observational Cross-Sectional Study in Two Albanian University Hospitals

J Multidiscip Healthc. 2021 Jul 8:14:1769-1781. doi: 10.2147/JMDH.S319236. eCollection 2021.


Introduction: Although physiotherapy is beneficial to intensive care unit (ICU) patients and recommended by guidelines, the role of physiotherapy in ICU settings is not fully explored in Albania.

Purpose: To provide an overview of the current physiotherapy practice in Albanian ICUs and explore the involvement of physiotherapists and intensive care nurses regarding respiratory therapy and early mobility in the ICU.

Patients and methods: This was an observational cross-sectional study, which included all ICU nurses working in six ICUs of University Hospital Center "Mother Theresa" and University Hospital of Trauma and all physiotherapists working in these hospitals. ICU nurses and hospital physiotherapists were approached to complete the survey regarding respiratory therapy and early mobility in critically ill patients.

Results: One hundred thirty-one completed questionnaires were returned from 189 questionnaires distributed to the survey participants (151 nurses and 38 physiotherapists); the response rate was 69.3%. Physiotherapy procedures were performed on a non-regular basis in ICUs in Tirana, Albania. Physiotherapists were not actively involved or exclusively employed in the ICU, and these ICUs did not use protocols for physiotherapist consultation. Physiotherapists occasionally performed respiratory therapy and early mobility in patients without an artificial airway. Nursing staff regularly performed airway suctioning in mechanically ventilated patients (100%) and participated in adjusting ventilator settings (82.2% regularly and 17.8% occasionally). In contrast, physiotherapists did not participate in these procedures and the early mobility of mechanically ventilated patients.

Conclusion: We report limited physiotherapy involvement in Albanian ICUs. Efforts should focus on improving physiotherapy practice in ICU, potentially making organizational and cultural changes in the ICU, and establishing protocols and guidelines.

Keywords: critical patients care; intensive care unit; nurse; physiotherapist; physiotherapy.