What are the barriers to nurses mobilising adult patients in intensive care units? An integrative review

Aust Crit Care. 2022 Sep;35(5):595-603. doi: 10.1016/j.aucc.2021.09.002. Epub 2021 Oct 30.


Objectives: There is a need for early mobilisation of patients in intensive care units to prevent acquired weaknesses which can have a long-term impact on health and quality of life. This need is not always fulfilled. We therefore sought to conduct an integrative review of international evidence to answer the question: What are the barriers to nurses mobilising adult patients in intensive care units?

Review method used: We conducted a systematic search and thematic analysis. We were able to present a descriptive quantitative synthesis of the survey articles included.

Data sources: We searched CINAHL, MEDLINE, and PsycINFO databases between and including 2010 and 2020 using search terms synonymous with "intensive care unit" and "nurse" and "early mobilisation" and "barrier using Boolean operators" and "truncation". We completed backwards and forwards citation searches on included studies.

Results: We included seven articles which we synthesised into three themes and 13 subthemes as follows: (i) organisational barriers (subthemes were staffing levels, time and workload, resources, and care coordination), (ii) individual barriers (subthemes were self and team safety, knowledge and training, beliefs about the consequences of early mobilisation, stress, and other barriers), and (iii) patient-related barriers (subthemes were medical instability/physical status, patient safety, neurological deficits and sedation, and nonconcordance of patients).

Conclusion: Nurses' barriers were wide ranging, and interventions to improve concordance with early mobilisation need to be tailored to address this group's specific barriers.

Keywords: Adherence; Early mobilisation; Intensive care unit; Nurses; Quality improvement.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Critical Care
  • Early Ambulation / methods
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units*
  • Quality of Life*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires