Aims Equipment and skills in intensive care have advanced dramatically, and early rehabilitation and ambulation for patients in intensive care units (ICUs) are part of their journey to recovery. The aim of this study is to understand better nurses’ perspectives on ambulating mechanically ventilated patients, and to determine why this is not a routine part of ICU patient care.
Method Interpretative phenomenological analysis was used to extract data from semi-structured interviews. The questions were piloted twice before being used in the main study.
Results Two overarching themes, staff anxiety and organisational culture, were identified, within which there are several subthemes. The study also found that education and training programmes could increase staff confidence and consequently result in routine ambulation of mechanically ventilated patients.
Conclusion The study identified that nursing staff are aware of the benefits of ambulation for patients in ICUs, but the personal satisfaction gained from undertaking this activity does not outweigh the anxiety it causes. This is compounded by the organisational culture of ICUs; for example, the hierarchical pyramid of leadership, which dictates that consultants decide when patients are ready to ambulate.