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

3.6 Types of Patient Transfers

Transfers involve moving a patient from one flat surface to another, such as from a bed to a stretcher (Perry et al., 2018). Types of hospital transfers include bed to stretcher, bed to wheelchair, wheelchair to chair, and wheelchair to toilet, and vice versa. Table 3.5 outlines types of transfers and patient factors that help to determine appropriateness of each.

Table 3.5 Types of Transfers

Type of Transfer


One-person standing pivot The patient:

  • can bear weight on one or both legs.
  • is cooperative and predictable.
  • can sit with minimal support on the side of the bed.

Note: A gait belt may or may not be used.

Two-person standing pivot
  • can assist with weight bearing, but may be inconsistent.
  • is cooperative and predictable.

Note: Two-person transfer with a gait belt, a stander, or a two-person transfer with a slide board and a gait belt may be used.

One-person assist with transfer board
  • is cooperative, follows directions, and has good trunk control.
  • can use their arms, but cannot bear weight on both legs.
Two-person assist with transfer board
  • is cooperative and can follow directions.
  • can use their arms, but cannot bear weight on both legs.
  • does not have good trunk control.

Note: If transferring out of a wheelchair, the chair must have removable arms.

  • can actively participate, with some ability to stand.
  • is reliable.
  • is predictable.
  • is a heavy two-person transfer.
  • does not have severe limb contractures or injuries where movement is medically contraindicated (e.g., spinal injury).
Mechanical / ceiling track
  • cannot reliably stand.
  • is unpredictable.
  • is too heavy for a two-person transfer.
Data sources: WorkSafeBC, 2006; WRHA, 2008
Review this Mobility Decision Support Tool from Interior Health (n.d.).
Sections 3.7 and 3.8 offer more information about patient transfers with or without mechanical assistive devices.


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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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