Encouraging older hospital patients to walk around the ward can boost recovery times and lead to earlier discharge, nurse researchers have found.
Israeli researchers from the nursing department at Haifa University looked at 485 patients over the age of 70, who were admitted to hospital with acute non-disabling conditions for an average of six days.
They found patients who walked around at least once per day stayed in hospital on average 1.5 days fewer than those who remained in their bed or seated next to it, regardless of the patients’ overall health status.
Writing in the Archives of Internal Medicine, the researchers said older patients might mistakenly believe that they should remain in bed when in fact immobility could quickly result in loss of muscle reserve capacity, resulting in complications.
Linda Nazarko, senior lecturer at South Bank University and nurse consultant for older people at Ealing Hospital NHS Trust, backed the findings. She said: “Staff sometimes think ‘it’s quicker’ to wheel rather than a walk a person. But nursing is about doing what’s right for the patients not what’s quickest.”
However, she also said a “great deal” could be done to make hospitals “more supportive of frail people who have mobility difficulties”, for example by putting seats in corridors and having more physiotherapists available at evenings and weekends “to help older people and support nurses in their efforts”.
Christine Fear, a nurse lecturer at the University of the West of England, added: “Exercise of any sort improves mobility and reduces falls as it gives the confidence back to older people that they lost after falling.”
But she said: “The supervision needed to achieve this would have implications for staffing levels on wards and risk assessments would probably need to be undertaken.”
- Shadmi E. In-Hospital Mobility and Length of Stay. Archives of Internal Medicine 2011 (Comments and Opinion).