Agitation in the Intensive Care Unit

A Danish/Australian study developing a practice guideline on non-pharmacological approaches to prevent, minimise and manage agitation in ICU.

Colorful Graffiti

About this Research

Agitated patient behaviours often occur in the intensive care unit (ICU). Such behaviours are associated with a number of negative patient outcomes, and must therefore be prevented and managed well.


Caring for patients who display agitated behaviours in ICU is both complex and challenging. Medication is often necessary when treating underlying causes of agitated behaviours and sometimes essential in keeping patients safe. However, medication has negative side effects. Therefore nurses are encouraged to also consider strategies that do not involve medication, the so-called non-pharmacological strategies.


But the role of nonpharmacological strategies is unclear. What strategies are effective and when should nurses use them?

The aim of this study is to develop person-centred guidelines for  clinicians on non-pharmacological strategies to prevent, minimise and manage agitated behaviours in the adult ICU. Such guidelines can support staff to make better decisions about patient care. 

To create guidelines that are meaningful and acceptable, we depend on the support from a wide range of people who have experience with agitated behaviours in the ICU. Therefore, this study seeks your opinion and advice on the scope and development of clinical practice guidelines for clinicians in ICU. 

Agitation in ICU

What it is and what it looks like

Main points of the video:

  • Agitation is a psychomotor disturbance

  • Agitation includes a cluster of behaviours such as restlessness, irritability, aggression and confusion. 

  • Agitation in ICU is common

  • Agitation can be dangerous, may compromise care and is linked to a number of negative patient outcomes.

  • Agitation must be prevented and managed well. 


Interested in Participating?

We need your help to create guidelines that are meaningful and applicable to clinicians, patients and families in the intensive care unit. Our first phase involves an advisory group, our second phase involves a Delphi panel. Read below for more information

Networking Event

Advisory Group

In this phase, a broad group of people will help to scope the guidelines and give advice on what is needed and what is meaningful.

This first project has finished
Writing on Glass

Delphi Panel

In this phase, expert nurses and previous ICU patients or families/relatives will participate in 3-4 rounds of surveys to agree on a number of guideline recommendations.