Acute Care Physical Therapy Resources

Recently, a friend of mine asked for resources to help him grow as an acute care physical therapist. I realized that these resources could be a helpful resource for others and decided to share them here.

I find in an acute hospital setting that increasing medical knowledge can be helpful. I also think a lot of treatment strategies could be useful in the acute care setting. Though some are more practical than others in this setting. Orthopedic manual techniques or other strategies could be of use. Though proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation or neurodevelopmental techniques could be used a larger percentage of the time. I will try to provide recommendations that are most practical in acute care physical therapy practice.

A few years ago, I attended an acute care course called Bells and Whistles. This is by far the best acute care course I have ever attended. One my colleagues with around 40 years experience also agrees with that statement. If you can not get to the course, this website still has a ton of great resources. This includes links to some relevant research and books. I have read Rapid Interpretation on EKGs by Dale Dubin, finding it useful for understanding EKGs and the cardiac system (also surprisingly humorous). The Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) class is also useful because there is a ton of medical knowledge combined with the fact it helps you better assist in a code situation. I am not alone in thinking this is a valuable experience. The APTA requires those wishing to specialize in cardiopulmonary physical therapy to take this class.

In recent years, early mobilization in the ICU has become more prevalent. Anecdotally, I have seen a positive impact from these efforts. There is some research to support this as well.1 There is even a free review article that provides a good overview of early mobilization programs including safety and effectiveness.Another highly recommended book is Pharmacology in Rehabilitation by Ciccone. I have not read it, but it came highly recommended to me in the past. It is one of the few pharmacology resources that focuses on the ramifications for rehab professionals such as physical therapists.

To improve treatment I would recommend either a PNF or NDT book. The PNF book by Susan Adler is the most recent, but books by Dorothy Voss may also be interesting as she is a founder of this approach. NDT books by Bertha Bobath or built off the Bobath approach would probably be best.

This is not a total list by any means. This list acts a solid starting point for building or expanding knowledge in the acute physical therapy setting. I think it is important for us to move the entire field of physical therapy forward, not just certain practice areas.

Hope this helps,



  1. Johnson AM, Henning AN, Morris PE, et al. Timing and Amount of Physical Therapy Treatment are Associated with Length of Stay in the Cardiothoracic ICU. Sci Rep. 2017; 7: 17591.
  2. Hashem MD, Nelliot A, Needham DM. Early Mobilization and Rehabilitation in the ICU: Moving Back to the Future. Respir Care. 2016;61(7):971-9.

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