Ask A Magnet Nurse

Nurses Can Help Patients With Safe Mobility, Which Promotes Healing

Laura Samuels RN
5 North, St. Joseph’s Hospital

Smart Living: As patients heal during their hospital stay, it’s important that they get plenty of rest. But you also try to get each patient as mobile as they can be while keeping safety as the top priority. Why is mobility important?

Laura Samuels: Remaining in bed causes muscles, blood vessels, digestion and lungs to become weak.  Exercising, sitting up in a chair, and walking around makes a difference physically and mentally.  Getting out of the room to walk down the hall and look out a window makes you feel better.

Suppose you are 70 years old with some limited mobility at home and come to the hospital for an acute illness.  You are already weak, then being in bed for several days makes recovery more difficult.  When it's time to go home, you may be even weaker.

Our new initiative is to mobilize patients earlier in their visit, and more often during the day to keep up total body health.

SL: How are nurses able to do this while also making sure patients are completely safe?

LS: We use the BMAT, which stands for Bedside Mobility Assessment Tool. Research shows that this is an effective way for nurses to assess how well patients can move.  We do a step-by-step assessment twice a day and assign a BMAT score giving mobility exercises appropriate for that patient's current condition.  Then we can safely assist patients with increasing activity levels.

Whether it’s doing leg and arm exercises in bed, getting up to a chair or walking, we can keep patients safe.  The hospital also invested in safety equipment like ceiling and mobile lift machines, more walkers and gait belts, along with training on these devices.  We keep patients safe from falls and staff safe from injury.

Initially there was concern by nurses that trying to increase time patients are out of bed would increase fall risk.  Research has proven the opposite.  When assessing how strong a patient is every day, we can make sure they have appropriate exercises to keep getting stronger.  When they can stand and walk, they are less likely to fall.  And finally, improving mobility gives patients mind and spirit a lift as well. 

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