Patient Lifts

January 23, 2014 | Health System Risk Management


Given the importance of protecting healthcare workers and patients from injury due manual handling of patients, organizations need to be aware of the different types of equipment that are available to make patient handling and movement safer, as well as appropriate device and accessory selection for the patient’s needs. Leadership should recognize, however, that simply buying and installing lifts will not completely prevent manual patient handling and associated injuries; there are many factors that go into a successful implementation of a program to reduce manual patient handling (thereby reducing injuries associated with that practice), and equipment planning and purchasing is only one consideration.

Lifts are an essential component of any healthcare facility’s worker safety efforts. Mobile lifts and ceiling lifts are two basic types for patients who do not have upper-body strength, cannot bear weight, have cognitive deficits, or are uncooperative or combative (ECRI Institute “Watch”), and these lifts can also be used for many other patients, depending on need. See information about these lifts in Table 1. Common Lifts for Dependent Patients.

For patients who are able to bear some of their own weight, sit-to-stand lifts assist with ambulation, helping patients move from a seated position to a standing position or vice versa. These lifts use a torso sling, and they can be wheeled from location to location. Typically, the patient grips handlebars while the lift raises the patient from a seated position. In addition to being able to bear some weight, patients who will likely benefit from these lifts will also be cognitively coherent and will have some upper-body strength (ECRI Institute “Watch”).

Some other transfer aids include transfer chairs, which can flatten out to assist with the movement of a patient from the chair to the bed; inflatable air lateral transfer systems, which include a specialty air mattress that can decrease the friction and effort during a lateral transfer (these may be very beneficial for patients with pressure ulcers or other conditions that can be worsened by shear); and transfer boards, transfer slides, and roller transfer aids, which help slide the patient from one surface to another. (ECRI Institute “Watch”; Pelczarski)

Mobile floor lifts come in two main designs: vertical lifts and crane lifts. These types differ based on the manner in which they lift the patient. With a crane lift, the patient is brought increasingly near the mast of the lift while being raised to the highest position; with a vertical lift, the patient is kept at a constant distance from the mast while being lifted. Both designs are equally suited to...

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