APTA Responds to The New York Times on ICU Trauma

January 15, 2009

Dear Editor:

As president of the American Physical Therapy Association's Acute Care Section, I read with great interest your January 11 article ("A Tactic to Cut ICU Trauma: Get Patients Up") on the diminishing state of health of intensive care unit patients. Physical therapists are an integral part of the medical team to ensure the expedient recovery of these patients.

A study, presented by the article's Dr Peter Morris at a 2007 meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians, demonstrated that physical therapy can begin as soon as an ICU patient regains consciousness. Physical therapists can work with patients with or without a ventilator, with breathing exercises that use respiratory muscles, as well as range of motion exercises to do either sitting up in bed or in a chair. The study showed that patients who received initial physical therapy experienced a dramatically reduced stay in the ICU and hospital.

The study is also particularly compelling because it so clearly demonstrates the importance of multi-disciplinary team approach to care for ICU patients. The patients in the study were treated by a medical team including an attending physician, critical care nurse, physical therapist, and nursing assistant. This study proved that the skills of all were equally integral to recovery.

We appreciate your efforts to educate the public on this important issue as the physical therapy profession continues to work to improve the quality of life for these patients.


Mary Pat C Jobes, PT, MA, NDT
President, Acute Care Section
American Physical Therapy Association