Patient Transport in Health Care

Instructor: Alyssa Campbell

Alyssa is an active RN and teaches Nursing and Leadership university courses. She also has a Doctorate in Nursing Practice and a Master's in Business Administration.

Patient care environments are recognized as having some of the highest occupational injury rates of all industries. Read on to find out how healthcare workers can keep both patients and themselves safe in the healthcare setting.

Safe Patient Transport in the Healthcare Setting

Hospitals and other healthcare settings are meant to be safe and healing environments; however, that is not always the case. Not only are patients at risk for falls, blood clots, and other hospital acquired infections, healthcare workers themselves are exposed to several other occupational hazards.

In the healthcare environment, patients must frequently be transported or mobilized for tests, procedures, or for general activity. While patients are healing and dependent upon the healthcare system, they may require varying levels of assistance. For example, the patient B. Tippy recently fractured his right femur, remains very weak throughout his hospital stay, and is ordered for an x-ray. The doctor has ordered B. Tippy not to bear any weight on the affected leg. Considerations for the healthcare worker may include, but are not limited to: positioning techniques and the use of assistive devices, general body mechanics, and other miscellaneous considerations.

Techniques and Assistive Devices

In an effort to get B. Tippy to the ordered test, the healthcare worker must first consider what techniques will be used to get the patient from the bed to the wheelchair or stretcher. The patient, depending on the level of mobility, balance, and ability to keep off of his right leg will help the healthcare worker determine what assistive device to use. If B. Tippy was young, had fair balance, and was stable while standing on only one leg, the healthcare worker might offer a walker or crutches to help the patient transfer from the bed to the wheelchair or stretcher. Since B. Tippy is very weak, a gait belt (a strap with a buckle that is placed at the patient's waist) might be used so that the healthcare worker can bear some or most of the patient's weight, making it easier for the patient to pivot from the bed to the wheelchair.

There are also situations in which the patient is completely unable to bear any of their own weight, and the healthcare worker must call on others to assist with the move or transfer. In this case, a hydraulic handle crank style lift, or a ceiling lift may be used. In this case, a patient is gently rolled onto a sling, and the sling is attached to the lift, freeing the healthcare worker from the need to bear a majority or all of the patient's weight.

General Body Mechanics

All healthcare workers must think about general body mechanics whether or not they provide direct patient care.

For B. Tippy, the healthcare worker must consider that when bearing some of the patient's weight, that additional weight added to their musculoskeletal system creates a strain on their body. Proper body mechanics can help to prevent sprains, strains, and other injuries commonly found in the healthcare setting. To safely transfer B. Tippy, the healthcare worker needs to consider:

  • Maintaining center of balance- keeping the spine aligned and the additional weight close to the center
  • Lifting with leg-power- instead of pulling Patient A up with his back
  • Pivoting- instead of twisting to get Patient A into the wheelchair
  • Calling on a team for help- over trying to take the quick and easy way out

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