Getting patients situated in the proper position is a key responsibility of nurses.
Whether it’s getting a patient more comfortable, collecting samples, or prepping for surgery, nothing can be done if the patient isn’t in the correct position.
But proper patient positioning is more than that. It’s about the very safety of the patient. The patient’s recovery – and their comfort.
And using proper technique when positioning a patient isn’t just about doing it safely for your patient – it’s also about protecting the nurse from possibly injuring themselves.
We’re going to review why the proper patient position is important and then give you two quick guides: one on lifting techniques and the other on how to safely position patients.
Why Patient Positioning Is Important
When many people think of patient positioning, comfort is usually the first thing that comes to mind – a comfortable position that is safe and appropriate. But there is much more to proper positioning than comfort.
Patients confined to a bed for extended periods are at risk of developing bedsores and therefore need to be regularly repositioned. Others need to be in certain positions according to health conditions or to aid recovery.
Here are four reasons why proper patient positioning is necessary:
1. Patient Safety And Comfort
While patients need to feel as comfortable as possible, they need to be in a safe position that protects their airway, circulation, nerve damage, and prevents unnecessary extension or rotation of their body.
But for some treatments and procedures, you have to find a happy medium between comfort and necessity.
2. Access To Body
A patient’s body position is crucial in access to the part of the body you’re working on whether you’re drawing blood, prepping for surgery or they’re just resting. They have to be positioned in a way that gives maximum access if you’re performing procedures.
3. Preserve Dignity
On the flipside of maximum access to the patient’s body, the proper positioning can also help you achieve access while preserving your patient’s dignity by not exposing their body unnecessarily.
4. Aid Recovery
Some positions can aid recovery by increasing blood flow or make breathing easier like the orthopneic position.
Proper Lifting Technique Is Critical For Nurses
Always using proper lifting techniques isn’t just critical for safely moving or positioning a patient; it should be used any time you are picking up something heavy.
Lifting something heavy improperly puts unnecessary pressure on your back, risking sprains, pulls, or other injuries.
Here’s a quick reminder on proper lifting techniques:
- Keep your head, neck, and back aligned upright and straight. It helps to “puff” your chest out.
- Bend at the knees and hips, lifting with your legs – not your back. If you bend at the waist, instead of the knees, you’re putting an incredible strain on your lower back and injuries can happen very easily – even with something you think isn’t very heavy.
- Don’t twist or bend your body – especially while bending over. Instead, shuffle your feet to face where you need to go.
- Hold the object close to your body.
- Bend your knees when you’re putting something down (whether it’s a patient or object) – don’t bend at the waist.
How To Safely Position Patients
Probably the most common type of positioning a nurse will do is positioning a patient in bed. It may be getting them comfortable and safe or preparing for a procedure.
Most commonly, patients will be in a recumbent position – if you’d like to better understand what the recumbent medical definition is, this article is a bonus for you.
To position a patient safely, here are some guidelines to follow:
- Perform hand hygiene
- Talk to your patient, explaining what you’re going to do ( you may want to raise the bed rails for safety)
- Ask and encourage the patient to help as much as they are able
- Enlist the help of a fellow nurse (some positionings are 2-person jobs)
- Use mechanical assists: electric lifts, bed/sideboards, slings — pillows, rolled towels or blankets can also be helpful
- Raise the bed until it’s level with your center of gravity (at your belly button)
- If you’re using a draw sheet, grip it firmly with both hands
- Lift, instead of sliding to prevent friction or shearing
- Use proper lifting technique (see above) any time you are lifting something heavy
- Get the patient in the proper position making sure that their body and limbs are safe and secure on the bed or table.
With patients who are conscious and responsive, your best tool to position them is going to be good verbal communication with them. If you want to know more, you can check out the most commonly used patient positions here.
It’s easy to go on autopilot when you do something multiple times every day. It becomes routine, so much so that you don’t even really think about what you’re doing.
But when it comes to positioning patients, a quick pause to think about the steps you need to go through and taking care to lift properly will not only save your back – it’ll help you ensure the safety, comfort, and speedier recovery of your patients.