Patient Transfer Boards: A Brief Guide

May 16, 2023
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When transferring patients with limited mobility, caregivers face their own set of challenges. To help reduce the risk of injury associated with transferring these patients, medical staff and caregivers can use patient transfer boards, shifters, or other assistive transfer devices. 

In this article, we will explore what a transfer board does, how to transfer a patient with a board or shifter, the different types of boards and accessories, some tips for ensuring successful patient transfers, and how safe patient transfer can greatly benefit patients and caregivers alike.

What is Patient Transfer?

Patient transfer is the process of moving a patient between two surfaces, such as from a bed to a stretcher or wheelchair, or from a wheelchair to a toilet. Effective patient transfers are crucial for maintaining patient safety, comfort, and dignity, as well as minimizing the risk of injury to both patients and caregivers. 

Transfers can also be performed with or without caregiver assistance, depending on the patient’s mobility level. Unassisted transfers, also known as independent transfers, occur when the patient is capable of moving themselves without any help. Assisted transfers, on the other hand, involve the caregiver providing support and guidance to the patient throughout the process.

What Does a Transfer Board Do? 

A transfer board is a sturdy, flat board designed to bridge the gap between two surfaces so that patients with limited mobility have a safe and secure way to slide between the surfaces without putting undue stress on their bodies or the caregiver. It can also allow for movement between surfaces without using the legs and makes it possible for patients to make a series of small movements rather than a single large movement, helping decrease the risk of injury. 

What is a Slide Board for Patients?

A slide board is a type of transfer board that incorporates a low-friction surface to make patient transfers smoother and easier. Slide boards come in various materials, including wood, plastic, and composite, and often have a non-slip surface to enhance patient safety during transfers. They are particularly useful when transferring patients who have difficulty moving themselves and help minimize physical strain on a caregiver. 

It is important to note that transfer boards and slide boards are different from patient shifters and roller boards, which are predominantly used during lateral transfers of patients with very limited or no mobility. 

Who Should Use a Transfer Board? 

Transfer boards are suitable for individuals with limited mobility or strength, such as those recovering from surgery, living with disabilities, or experiencing age-related mobility issues. These boards are beneficial for caregivers as they reduce the risk of injury from manually lifting or supporting patients during transfers.

Healthcare professionals, including nurses, physical therapists, and occupational therapists, often use transfer boards to assist patients in various settings, such as hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and long-term care facilities. Furthermore, family members and home caregivers can also use transfer boards to safely assist their loved ones with daily transfers. 

How Do You Transfer a Patient with a Board? 

When using a transfer board, properly performing an assisted transfer of a patient with limited mobility typically involves the following steps

Preparation: Position the patient as close as possible to the surface they will be transferring to, making sure both are at a similar height. If the patient is in a wheelchair, lock the wheelchair's brakes. 

Positioning the board: Securely place one end of the transfer board under the patient's buttock and the other end on the receiving surface, ensuring that the board is stable and won't move during the transfer.

Transferring: Assist the patient in leaning towards the receiving surface, then help them slide their buttock across the board. The patient may use their arms to help push themselves across, or the caregiver can assist with gentle pressure.

Completion: Once the patient has successfully transferred, remove the transfer board and help them get settled in their new position.

By properly using a transfer board, both patients and their caregivers can experience safer and more comfortable transfers. 

Tips for Safe Patient Transfers Using Transfer Boards

To ensure a safe and comfortable transfer using a transfer board, consider the following tips

Communication is key: Make sure the patient understands the transfer process and feels comfortable asking for assistance or expressing any concerns.

Take your time: Rushing through the transfer can be dangerous for both the patient and caregiver. Allow ample time for the transfer to ensure it's done safely and without unnecessary stress.

Use proper body mechanics: Caregivers should be mindful of their own body mechanics during the transfer process. Bend your knees and keep your back straight to avoid injury.

Keep the transfer board clean and well-maintained: Regularly inspect your transfer board for any signs of wear or damage, and clean it as needed to ensure a safe and sanitary transfer surface.

Product Spotlight: Transfer Boards and Shifters

Various types of assistive transfer aids as well as lateral transfer devices are designed to help improve the safety and comfort of patients and caregivers when transferring the patient between different surfaces. AliMed offers a variety of products to accommodate a range of patient transfer needs, including for those who require limited assistance to those requiring full assistance.

AliMed® Maple Transfer Boards: These sturdy wooden transfer boards support up to 300 lbs. of weight and are useful for facilitating wheelchair-to-bed or wheelchair-to-toilet transfers for patients with limited mobility. 

AliMed® Soft Gold Rollboards: Lightweight with conveyor-belt mechanics to reduce friction, these padded rollboards provide a comfortable, low-friction surface for smooth and gentle lateral patient transfers. Additionally, there is no lifting needed with these rollboards, which can help to reduce strain on the neck and shoulders of the caregiver.

AliMed® Conductive/Anti-Stat Patient Shifters: These shifters are ideal for use in settings where static electricity may pose a hazard, such as operating rooms or imaging departments. Both of these patient shifters are made to slide easily onto a bed or stretcher pad. 

The Conductive Patient Shifter is designed to help eliminate painful shocks and static buildup. The Anti-Stat Patient Shifter has a slippery coating for protecting patients from sticking to the shifter, and its anti-static design helps to reduce the risk of static discharge.

AliMed® Half Shifters: Lightweight, smooth, and flexible, this shifter is made for lateral transfers and is ideal for comfortably transferring patients from a bed to a stretcher. Moreover, it has a compact size well suited for pediatric patients, and offers easy transport and storage in small spaces. 

In addition to these patient transfer solutions, AliMed also offers accessories for patient shifters and boards, such as the AliMed® Stainless Steel Patient Shifter Hangers and the AliMed® Shifter Storage Wall Hanger. Both of these products assist with storing shifters and boards off the floor while keeping them accessible for use.

Understanding the importance of patient transfer boards and their various applications can make the process of transferring patients safer and more efficient for caregivers. By incorporating transfer boards and shifters into daily routines and following the tips mentioned above, both patients and caregivers can experience safer, more comfortable transfers. 

If you would like to learn more about best practices for safe patient handling, take a look at the various educational resources offered by AliMed.


AliMed, Inc. is a manufacturer and distributor of medical supply products, and is not a medical authority. The contents contained in this article, including text, graphics, imagery, and other materials, are for informational and educational purposes only. AliMed does not provide or intend to provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and the information contained here should not be treated as such. If you have questions about a specific medical condition or specific personal use of a medical device, always consult your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.

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