The Importance of Gait Belts for Safe Patient Handling
The Importance of Gait Belts for Safe Patient Handling
June 20, 2023
In the healthcare industry, lifting or moving patients is a common task that healthcare providers perform every day. However, this task poses potential safety risks to both the care provider and the patient if the proper equipment —such as a gait belt—is not used. To ensure the safety of staff and patients, it is important to use gait belts as part of your safe patient handling program and to ensure they are being used properly.
What is a Gait Belt?
A gait belt is an assistive device placed around a patient’s waist to provide caregivers with a secure grip when lifting or moving the patient. It is usually made of canvas, nylon, leather, or plastic. Buckles are typically made of plastic or metal.
What is the Purpose of a Gait Belt?
The purpose of a gait belt is to provide stability and support to patients with limited mobility during transfers and walking. Patients who are partially dependent on others for their movements, such as the elderly or those with mobility issues, are more in need of a gait belt.
Gait belts enable caregivers to have better control, stability, and balance when moving a patient and help prevent strain on their back, hips, and arms. The increased stability and added balance while walking also help reduce the risk of falls or injury to the patient during transfers.
When Should You Use a Gait Belt?
A gait belt should be used when lifting or moving patients with mobility issues. However, there are instances when a gait belt should not be used, such as with patients who have abdominal or chest tubes, open wounds, ostomies, or other contraindications.
When selecting a transfer aid, it is essential to consider the patient’s mobility level. Gait belts are generally used with patients who are partially dependent or require assisted mobility. For patients with no mobility, gait belts may be used with other transfer devices to help further stabilize the patient and assist with the transfer process, but they should never be used as the primary device in those cases.
How to Use a Gait Belt?
It is crucial to know the right way to use a gait belt to ensure patient and staff safety during the transfer process. Outlined below is the suggested procedure for using a gait belt to assist a patient from sitting to standing, through ambulation, and back to sitting.
- While the patient is seated, place the belt around the patient’s natural waist just above the hips, with the buckle in front.
- Secure the buckle.
- Hold the buckle while pulling 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.
- Once the belt is secure, ensure the patient is scooted forward with their knees at less than a 90-degree angle and their feet securely on the floor.
- Grasp the belt at the patient’s sides and guide them into a standing position.
- Once the patient is standing, check to ensure the belt is still snug and tighten if needed.
- Before beginning ambulation, grasp under the belt with one hand in the center of the patient’s back.
- Walk hip-to-hip with the patient.
- Once you have reached your destination, grasp the belt at the patient’s sides and guide the patient safely into a sitting position.
- When the transfer is complete and the patient is seated safely, unclasp the buckle and gently remove the gait belt.
Choosing a Gait Belt
Not all gait belts are appropriate for use with all patients, and some situations may have specific requirements. When choosing a gait belt, it is important to consider your facility’s infection control protocols as well as the needs of the patient.
When choosing a reusable gait belt with infection-control properties, it is important to ensure the belt is either antimicrobial-treated, easily cleaned, or both. For example, AliMed® Antimicrobial-Treated Gait Belts are launderable, while AliMed® Soft Wipeable Gait Belts are fully wipeable as well as antimicrobial-treated to prohibit the growth of bacteria.
AliMed® Single-Patient-Use Gait Belts are lower in cost and can be issued directly to the patient and left in their room for all staff to use. This helps reduce the spread of infection as they are easily disposed of after the patient is discharged. These belts are also ideal for isolation room use.
Different types of patients may also require specific types of gait belts. For example, AliMed® Pediatric Walker Belts are designed specifically for your smallest patients, while AliMed® Ambulation Belts with easy-grip handles are wider than typical gait belts, providing maximum stability for your largest patients.
For your most at-risk patients, including those prone to falls or wandering, AliMed® High-Visibility Soft Wipeable Gait Belts allow quick, easy identification.
Gait Belt Training and Education
Gait belt training is essential for caregivers who will be transferring or lifting patients. The training provides caregivers with the knowledge and skills they need to transfer patients safely. Additionally, healthcare providers learn how to identify when a gait belt is needed, select the appropriate belt for each patient, and use the belt correctly to ensure both patient and staff safety.
Want more information? Visit AliMed’s Safe Patient Handling Resource Hub to explore a multitude of educational resources, including a guidebook, printable staff training posters, podcasts, infographics, videos, and more.