How to Safely Transfer a Patient from Bed to Wheelchair

September 5, 2023

transfer patient from bed to wheelchairTransferring a patient from their bed to a wheelchair requires proper technique, focus, and an understanding of the patient's mobility level in order to avoid complications and injuries. In this article, we will provide an easy-to-follow guide outlining the suggested procedure for transferring a patient from bed to wheelchair. 

Step One: Assess the Patient and Select the Appropriate Transfer Device 

Before initiating the transfer, assess the patient's physical condition, mobility level, and any potential concerns or limitations. Factors such as the patient’s balance, overall strength, and ability to bear weight should all be considered when selecting the appropriate transfer device. 

For patients with severely limited or no mobility, use an electric or mechanical lift—like the BestLift™ Full-Body Patient Lift or the BestStand™ Sit-To-Stand Patient Lift—with a sling. For those with limited mobility, use a transfer board, a gait belt, or both. 

Step Two: Prepare the Wheelchair 

Ensure the bed and wheelchair are at an appropriate height for a smooth transfer with the brakes on, footrests up, and the armrests removed or folded out of the way. If utilizing a transfer board or gait belt, position the chair next to the bed with the front angled towards the bed.  If utilizing a lift, ensure the chair is positioned where there is sufficient clearance for the lifter base. 

Step Three: Position the Patient Using an Assistive Transfer Device   

Preparing a lift and sling: 

  1. Gently roll the patient to one side and slide the sling underneath them. Ensure the sling is properly positioned to provide support and prevent discomfort.  
  2. Position the lift close to the bed, making sure it's stable and locked.  
  3. Securely attach the sling's loops or connectors to the hooks on the lift. Make sure the connections are strong and stable. 

Preparing a transfer board: 

  1. Position the patient at the edge of the bed closest to the wheelchair.  
  2. Securely place one end of the transfer board under the patient's buttocks and the other end on the receiving surface, ensuring that the board is stable and won't move during the transfer. 

Preparing a gait belt: 

  1. While the patient is seated, place the belt around the patient’s natural waist just above the hips, with the buckle in front.  
  2. Secure the buckle and pull the slack end of the belt to tighten. The belt should fit snugly but should not be constricting—there should be room for two fingers to slide in between the belt and the patient.  
  3. Ensure the patient is seated at the edge of the bed closest to the wheelchair with their knees at less than a 90-degree angle and their feet securely on the floor. 

Step Four: Guide or Lift the Patient Into the Wheelchair 

If using a lift:  

  1. Engage the lifting mechanism to gradually raise the patient off the bed.  
  2. Carefully maneuver the lift and patient over to the wheelchair. Always have a second caregiver help with guiding patient into the chair properly. 
  3. Gently lower the patient into the wheelchair, using the lift's controls to ensure a smooth transfer. 

If using a transfer board: 

  1. Assist the patient in leaning towards the receiving surface.  
  2. Help the patient slide their buttocks across the board, guiding them with gentle pressure if needed.  

If using a gait belt:  

  1. Grasp the belt at the patient’s sides.  
  2. Guide the patient into a standing position. 
  3. Grasp under the belt with one hand in the center of the patient’s back. 
  4. Walk hip-to-hip with the patient until you reach the wheelchair.  
  5. Grasp the belt at the patient’s sides and guide them safely into a sitting position in the wheelchair.  

Step Five: Remove the Assistive Transfer Device   

Once the patient is safely seated in the wheelchair, gently remove the transfer board or belt.  

Step Six: Position the Patient in The Wheelchair 

Adjust the patient's position in the wheelchair, ensuring they are comfortable and well-supported with their hips scooted back on the seat and their feet securely on the footrests. For patients requiring extra support, consider placing additional padding, strapping, supports, or cushions to ensure their stability and comfort while seated in the wheelchair. 

It is important to prioritize the patient's safety and comfort during a transfer and communicate clearly throughout the process. While this basic guide provides an overview of suggested steps, caregivers should complete formal training before transferring a patient and follow their institution’s or facility’s protocols as applicable. Careful preparation, clear communication, and proper technique go a long way in making a patient’s transition from the bed to the wheelchair as seamless as possible.  

Want more information? Visit AliMed’s Safe Patient Handling Resource Hub to explore a multitude of educational resources.


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