Back problems can be avoided with proper technique.
Nurses are responsible for lifting and repositioning patients as a normal part of their shift. For this reason, they are in danger of hurting their backs if they do not use proper lifting techniques for taking care of patients. It is always best to have more than one person available when lifting and moving a patient, but there are techniques a nurse can use if she is alone. Staying safe and keeping the back healthy is possible by following proper lifting techniques.
Bed to Standing
Position the wheelchair close to the side of the bed, and lock the wheels. It should be on the side that the patient feels the strongest. Ideally, the bed should be slightly higher than the wheelchair. Assist the patient to a sitting position by gently grasping under the legs and swinging them over the edge of the bed. Use the electric bed to assist the patient to sitting or assist the patient to sitting by grasping her hands. Secure a gait belt around the patient's waist. The nurse should keep her feet shoulder width apart, her back straight and her knees bent. Place the patient's hands on the bed or on the arms of the wheelchair. Hold the patient close, and lift with the knees until the patient is in a standing position.
Standing to Sitting
Pivot the patient toward the wheelchair. Be sure that the patient reaches back to feel for the chair and does not fall into the chair as this can be dangerous. Slowly bend at the knees and lower the patient into the chair while keeping the back straight.
Position in Bed
Many times, a patient will need to be repositioned in bed. This requires assistance from another person. Be sure there is a draw sheet under the patient for lifting and turning. The bed should also be locked with the rails up and the height at waist level to avoid stooping. Ask the patient to help, if possible, by bending his legs and pushing or by pulling on the side rails. Everyone involved in the lift should work in unison, usually on a count of three. With a straight back and bent knees, get as close to the patient as possible, and slide him up in the bed to reposition him. Shift weight from one foot to another instead of twisting with the back.
In general, it is best to lift with the knees and avoid twisting the back. Although it is sometimes impossible to avoid lifting, it helps to get as many people as possible to help with the bigger lifts that sometimes are necessary. Keeping the neck and back in alignment with the feet shoulder width apart is a good general rule to follow when attempting to lift patients. Never lift at the waist, and always try to get the weight as close to the body as possible to make carrying it easier on the back.