How to Properly Lift a Patient

Written by grahame turner
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While many medical professionals will try to treat the patient on the spot if they can, sometimes the patient is not in a safe place to start, or he must be taken to a piece of equipment that can't be moved. In these situations, you should know how to lift a patient properly.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Stretcher or wheelchair (optional)
  • Assistants (recommended)

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  1. 1

    Check the patient and situation carefully. Note that neck and limb injuries are especially prone to further damage while moving a patient, so immobilise these areas properly before moving.

  2. 2

    Clear a path to your target exit.

    If you are using a stretcher or wheelchair park it next to the patient, perpendicular to his body. A wheelchair should be placed by his hips, so that his feet will be by the footrests when he stands. The foot of the stretcher should be by his head, so that you can turn 90 degrees clockwise and place him on it.

  3. 3

    Decide on the best lift for your situation.

    If your patient can walk, see the Shoulder Lift section. If she cannot, and you have a stretcher, see Direct Moving. If you have none, see the Arm Drag or Lift Technique.

    Shoulder lift

  1. 1

    Have the patient sit upright. Assist him if necessary.

  2. 2

    Help the patient get his legs to where he can stand on them. If he is sitting on something, help him dangle his legs off the side. If he is on the ground, getting him to a kneeling position is best, if possible.

  3. 3

    Sit or kneel next to the patient and drape one of his arms over your shoulder. Place your nearest arm behind him, and grasp his draped wrist with your other hand.

  4. 4

    Stand simultaneously with the patient. Communicate with him throughout the whole process so that you don't lift him too hard or fast.

  5. 5

    Walk with him to either the exit or the wheelchair.

    If you are seating him in a chair, help him to a standing position over the chair, and make sure he has a grip on both armrests before gently lowering him into the chair.

    Direct moving

  1. 1

    Place your arms behind the patient's back and neck, and have an assistant hold her behind the buttocks and legs.

    If you have to lift on your own, place one arm behind the patient's back, grasping her far wrist, and the other behind her legs, grasping at the knee.

  2. 2

    Lift carefully and gently, keeping the patient close to your body. If you are working with someone, communicate with them so that you are both moving in sync.

  3. 3

    Shuffle slowly toward the stretcher. Hold her over the stretcher with her head at the head of the stretcher.

  4. 4

    Gently lower her onto the stretcher.

    Arm drag or lift technique

  1. 1

    Help the patient shift from the floor into a sitting position. He can use your knee for support.

  2. 2

    Kneeling behind him, place your arms below the patient's armpits and grasp his wrists, pulling his hands together across his waist.

    If you have a partner, have him grasp the patient's knees, ready for lifting.

  3. 3

    Lift the patient gently. Take care to keep your back as straight as possible while lifting. If you are working with someone, communicate with him so the movement is fluid and in sync.

  4. 4

    Move as slowly as the situation will allow. If you are working alone, the patient's heels will drag on the floor. When lowering the patient to the wheelchair or stretcher, use your legs and bend at the knees, keeping your back as straight as possible.

Tips and warnings

  • Adopt the recommended lifting position: Kneel on one knee, while the other foot is flat on the floor. Grasp the object with your palms facing upward, and lift evenly, concentrating on using the muscles in your legs---not your back.
  • Lifting a patient improperly can cause injuries to both the patient and yourself. Try learning to lift properly in a practice environment before any medical need arises.
  • If you don't think you will be able to lift the patient on your own, do not attempt it. Get help.

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