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Physiotherapy services in intensive care. A workforce survey of Australia and New Zealand.

  • Thomas, Peter1
  • Chaseling, Wendy2
  • Marais, Leanne3
  • Matheson, Claire4
  • Paton, Michelle5
  • Swanepoel, Nelmari6
  • 1 Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital, Brisbane, Australia. Electronic address: [email protected]. , (Australia)
  • 2 St George Hospital, Kogarah, Australia. , (Australia)
  • 3 Te Whatu Ora, Health New Zealand, South Canterbury, Timaru, New Zealand. , (New Zealand)
  • 4 Middlemore Hospital, Auckland, New Zealand. , (New Zealand)
  • 5 Monash Health, Clayton, Australia. , (Australia)
  • 6 Te Whatu Ora, Health New Zealand, Auckland, Takapuna, New Zealand. , (New Zealand)
Published Article
Australian critical care : official journal of the Confederation of Australian Critical Care Nurses
Publication Date
Sep 01, 2023
DOI: 10.1016/j.aucc.2022.11.004
PMID: 36577615


In Australia and New Zealand, there are currently no recommendations to guide staffing levels for intensive care unit (ICU) physiotherapy services, and there is limited information about the current services provided. The objective of this study was to document the profile of intensive care physiotherapy services currently offered in Australia and New Zealand. A binational survey was distributed to physiotherapists. The survey sought information on staffing and service profiles for weekday, weekend, and after-hour services including on-call and evening shifts. Eighty-six sites completed the survey, with responses primarily from Level 3 (47/86, 55%) and public ICUs (74/86, 86%). For weekday services, the ratio of full-time equivalent physiotherapy staff allocated per bed was similar between all intensive care levels (0.11 [0.08-0.15], p = 0.421). Thirty respondents (35%) were satisfied with their staffing and reported higher levels of physiotherapy staff per bed (0.15 [0.1-0.2], p < 0.001). Most sites reported lower levels of staffing for weekend services (76/86, 88%), and many physiotherapists indicated that they were not satisfied with this service (55/86, 64%). Most Level 2, Level 3, and paediatric ICUs had a designated senior physiotherapist, with similar levels of senior physiotherapy staff allocated per bed between all ICU levels (0.05 [0.03-0.08], p = 0.844). Few sites reported dedicated staff attributed to intensive care education, research, tracheostomy service, or outreach roles. On-call physiotherapy services were available in 49 of 86 (57%) hospitals surveyed; however, utilisation of the service by ICUs was mainly reported to be less than once per month (19/49, 39%). Physiotherapy staffing ratios were similar across different ICU levels. While weekend services are available for most ICUs, staffing levels are reduced. Higher staffing ratios were associated with higher levels of satisfaction to complete professional roles and responsibilities. Copyright © 2022 Australian College of Critical Care Nurses Ltd. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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