Intensive care: Patients' experiences
Physiotherapy in ICU
- any physical or psychological problems
- the likelihood of any problems developing in the future, and
- their current rehabilitation needs.
If the health check shows that the patient could benefit from more structured support, he or she should be given a more detailed health check (called a comprehensive clinical assessment) to identify their rehabilitation needs. The healthcare team should talk to each patient about their rehabilitation goals, involving the family and/or carer if the patient is unconscious or unable to give formal consent.*
Some people had vague memories of having physiotherapy while they were sedated. Others discussed the gentle exercises they did daily in order to re-build their strength. The support of physiotherapists helped others to make progress. Some of these people recalled being 'suctioned' or having their lungs cleared to prevent the build-up of secretions.
The physiotherapists encouraged her to walk even though she was weak and found it difficult to eat.
The physios in Intensive Care used to come in twice a day. They were fantastic, absolutely, I can't fault them at all. They were very encouraging. I found I could say whatever I wanted. And what was good was that some of them had seen me that day I came in. And they used to come in and manipulate my lungs. And so they knew how ill I was, you know, had been. And so they saw the daily progress. Which did help.
She found the physiotherapists kind and encouraging, and the exercises made her feel she could do...
I do, once I'd come round a bit I remember the physios. I liked the physios coming round. They were always very, very kind, very apologetic about having to pummel my chest or whatever. But it was never painful. And they were so encouraging. And they gave me exercises to do, which I did religiously because I felt it was something positive I could do to help myself to get better. So if they said, "Do these breathing exercises every hour" that's what I did. And it's been a good experience with the physios, because I continue to go to physio and see the same physio that I saw in hospital.
Being moved or 'hoisted' from the bed to a chair was a sign of improvement for many people. Some, however, found this uncomfortable, painful and embarrassing. Others had found the physiotherapy painful or tiring, and had dreaded their physiotherapists' visits.
She was embarrassed when she was hoisted from the bed to a chair and surprised at how weak she...
And then they had to, I seen a man over the ward from me and I wrote it down that I wanted to sit in a chair like he was. Like a relaxed, comfy chair. So they hoisted me, and that was horrible. And I was like, all my dignity just went because my, I had a gown on and all my backside was hanging out and I thought, "Oh God, just put me back to bed", you know. It's not nice this but by, well, because I were young and, I don't know, and then you've got nurses who are as young as you looking after you and, well I don't know, it's just, it's not right nice.
And you looked at yourself, and how did you feel when you saw yourself?
Oh God, I had to have a, because the first time I saw myself it was when the physios hoisted me on this standing hoist. And because there were a mirror there and they turned me round and pushed me backwards to sit in this chair and I just said to them, "Wait a minute," and I just looked in this mirror and, I don't know, I was shocked. And I thought, because like I didn't have a bath, my hair was a mess, I didn't have no teeth in, I'd lost all this weight. All you could see were like dressings, bags and, oh, I don't know, I was disgusted, you know, it was horrid, it weren't nice.
He disliked having physiotherapy but knew he needed it and appreciated the physiotherapists'...
They're brilliant and the physiotherapist, I used to hate, anybody who's been in intensive care oh the hospital physiotherapy. Oh, horrible. I used to call them horrible people but honestly they're brilliant. I used to go like that, "No". But they do, and they give you all these and they, oh the pain but you have to go through pain and anyway. Ah they were lovely people you know. They love me now. I love them. I've seen them since when I've been back. But you hate them in hospital when they first so, you know what they're doing because you're, "They're putting me through pain. What are they doing this with me leg for, what are they doing this with me arms?"
But if you didn't, you wouldn't move again. They have to do that but you don't like it. Anybody who's been in physio in hospital will tell you they hate them at first. I told them. I told them how I felt about them. And they said, 'We know. We always used to hate coming to you because you were just come, you'd go mad." But they did it for me own good. Even when I was comatised, they were still doing it, I don't know that obviously but they have to keep your body... But that were painful but they had to do it.
Some people noted how different they now looked, compared to when they were first admitted. Depending on their illness or injuries, some had swollen up, while others had lost a lot of weight. Many praised the ICU staff and treatments they were given to help them survive and regain strength, and the physiotherapy they received on a general ward (see 'Physiotherapy on the ward').
* Information from ICU steps.
Last reviewed August 2018.
Last updated May 2015.