Chapter 3. Safer Patient Handling, Positioning, Transfers and Ambulation

3.12 Summary

To use the principles of body mechanics effectively and safely, healthcare providers must have the required training to perform a risk assessment, knowledge about transfer assistive devices, and an understanding of the procedures for safe patient handling. In addition, knowing risk factors for positioning, transferring, and ambulation, along with understanding falls prevention, will help prevent injuries to staff and patients. The goal of this chapter has been to help reduce the incidence and severity of injuries related to patient-handling procedures.

Key Takeaways

  • Patients’ conditions and their ability to move will change over the course of their hospital stay. A patient risk assessment must be done prior to all patient-handling procedures.
  • MSI can result from any type of handling procedure. The principles of proper body mechanics can be applied to all procedures related to positioning, transferring, and ambulation. Correct posture and keeping the patient close to your centre of gravity are essential to maintain balance during transfers, positioning, and ambulation.
  • Educate yourself on standard procedures to protect yourself from injury. Retrain and keep current with new procedures and assistive devices.
  • The use of assistive devices can help a patient transfer safely and effectively.
  • Always seek additional assistance and help as required.
  • Keep yourself healthy with exercise and a proper diet, along with suitable footwear, to help prevent injury. If a MSI is suspected, seek help immediately and report the incident.
  • Avoid trying to catch a falling patient. If possible, follow the guidelines to lower a falling patient to the floor.
  • Be proactive to implement safe strategies and prevent hazards in the workplace related to patient handling.

Suggested Online Resources

  1. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality: Which Fall Prevention Practices Do You Want to Use? (2013). These universal fall risk precautions review physiological, anticipated, unanticipated, and environmental hazards with a focus on identifying risk factors and prevention strategies.
  2. BC Interior Health: Safe Patient Handling (n.d.). This website lists excellent resources, including brochures and videos, about topics related to body mechanics, transfers, positions, and performing risk assessments.
  3. BC Patient Safety & Quality Council: Hospital Care for Seniors: 48/6 Approach (2012). This resource offers a model of care for hospitalized seniors (aged 70 and older) in British Columbia. It is an integrated care initiative that addresses six care areas of functioning through patient screening and assessment (assessments are completed only where screening shows areas of concern) within the first 48 hours of hospital admission.
  4. Canadian Fall Prevention Education Collaborative: Canadian Fall Prevention Curriculum (2017). This website provides information and tool kits for preventing falls in the community and acute care settings.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Safe Patient Handling Training for Schools of Nursing (2009). This resource was developed by the World Health Organization to create global awareness. It provides up-to-date algorithms for patient transfers.
  6. Provincial Health Services Authority: Safe Patient Handling (2010). These instructional video courses cover numerous topics including mechanical (ceiling) lifts, additional re-positioning techniques, transfers, and assisting a patient off the floor.


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Clinical Procedures for Safer Patient Care Copyright © 2018 by Thompson Rivers University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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