Preserving patient mobility essential for upholding dignity and Independence


As a seasoned physiotherapist with a wealth of experience in acute hospital settings, Caring Futures Institute PhD candidate Jo Nolan has long been attuned to the challenges faced by patients, particularly older adults, who endure prolonged bed rest during their hospital stays. Witnessing firsthand the detrimental effects of muscle weakness and functional decline on patient outcomes, Nolan’s research aims to address this pressing issue and change current healthcare practices.

From Nolan’s perspective, the problem of mobility decline in acute care settings is all too familiar. Older patients often experience significant muscle weakness due to extended periods of immobility, risking complications such as blood clots, pressure injuries, and a loss of independence. Recognising the urgency of finding solutions, Nolan has made it her mission to delve deeper into this issue and explore avenues for improvement.

Jo Nolan

“I have seen firsthand the profound impact that immobility can have on patients’ lives,” Nolan reflecting on her own personal experiences and understanding learned through real-world encounters. “It’s not just about preventing falls; it’s about preserving independence and dignity.”

Nolan’s study begins with a comprehensive scoping review, which involves the meticulous examination of existing literature on mobility in acute care settings. By synthesising this evidence, Nolan aims to identify key areas of focus and potential avenues for intervention. Nolan then plans to conduct interviews with healthcare leaders to gain a deeper understanding of the organisational factors that influence mobility practices within hospitals.

Through these interviews, Nolan hopes to shed light on the barriers and facilitators to implementing mobility-promoting strategies, paving the way for evidence-based interventions that can make a tangible difference in patient outcomes. By bridging the gap between research and practice, Nolan aims to create a healthcare system where mobility promotion is not just an afterthought but central to patient care.

Nolan’s project is funded through an enterprise scholarship in partnership with Southern Adelaide Local Health Network (SALHN), Flinders Foundation and Flinders University over three and a half years. With joint funding and support, Nolan has access to invaluable resources and expertise that amplify the impact of her work.

Additionally, the extended duration of the scholarship provides Nolan with the time to conduct this research and explore potential collaborations with other healthcare facilities. “The collaboration between Caring Futures Institute and the Southern Adelaide Local Health Network is instrumental in driving this research forward. Together, we can make a real difference by championing a patient-centred approach to care, improve patient outcomes, enhance healthcare efficiency, and ultimately, enhance the quality of life for all.”

Looking ahead, Nolan envisions a future where mobility promotion is ingrained in the fabric of acute care settings. Through evidence-based interventions and organisational changes, Nolan aims to prevent hospital-associated deconditioning and empower patients to both maintain and regain their independence more swiftly.

Nolan’s ambition to improve mobility in acute care settings is driven by her commitment to patient wellbeing and a vision of transformative change. With determination and dedication, Nolan aims to pave the way for a brighter, more mobile future in healthcare.

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Fundamentals of Care