Skip To Content

The Do’s & Don’ts of Lifting Patients Safely

Written by: Michael Fragala, PhD, MBA, RN, WCC, CSPHP, AMS

In today’s dynamic healthcare landscape, ensuring the safety of patients and staff is paramount. Safe patient handling isn’t just a buzzword; it’s an essential practice that protects everyone involved in patient care. When done incorrectly, lifting patients can have serious negative consequences, potentially injuring both patients and caregivers as seen in the photo above. With high-quality safe-patient-handling equipment, healthcare leaders have tools that can mitigate these risks.

Understanding Safe Patient Lifting

Safe patient lifting is the application of ergonomic principles and tools to move or support a patient safely. Ergonomic principles for patient handling have the goal of reducing physical strain on caregivers through the use of equipment and proper techniques. Integrating safe-patient-handling equipment and techniques offers a host of benefits, including reducing injury rates, increasing patient comfort, and improving the efficiency of facility operations.

The Do’s of Lifting Patients Safely

Do Assess the Risk

Before your staff perform any patient lift, they should always conduct a risk assessment. This allows them to determine the patient’s mobility level so that they can evaluate the equipment and personnel needed.

Do Use Proper Body Mechanics

Proper body mechanics also play a pivotal role in patient lift safety. Key ergonomic principles that should be followed include:

  1. Utilizing leg muscles – The power for lifting should come from the legs, not the waist or back muscles.
  2. Get up close to the load – Being closer to the bed will help your staff experience less strain.
  3. Use a wide, stable base – Stability reduces the risk of experiencing strain or losing control during the transfer.
  4. Ensure a comfortable, firm grasp – Maintaining a good grip will reduce the risk of losing control of the load, potentially having to bear all the patient’s weight on a single arm.
  5. Keep the spine close to neutral – The closer the spine is to neutral, the less bending strain it will experience.
  6. Make sure the movement is smooth – A single, smooth movement helps to prevent something from becoming dislodged and promotes patient comfort.

Do Communicate

Effective communication and teamwork are also essential when lifting patients. When your staff communicates well, it ensures everyone is in sync and understands their roles. It also facilitates a better understanding of personnel and equipment needs at the time of each patient lift.

Do Understand The Equipment

When using safe patient handling equipment, your staff should always know the types of equipment that they have available. They should also understand the safe working load for each piece of equipment and how to use each type of equipment correctly.

Do Provide Training

Training is vital for long-term patient lifting success. Patient lifting training involves having regular sessions and competency assessments to keep skills sharp.

The Don’ts of Lifting Patients Safely

While there are several principles that you should follow to promote safe patient lifting, there are also things that should be avoided:

  • Don’t lift manually if there is any potential alternative.
  • Don’t rely solely on personal strength.
  • Don’t use makeshift lifting devices.
  • Don’t be in a hurry or rush during patient transfers.
  • Don’t overload or exceed the weight limits of equipment

Safe Patient Handling Equipment

Having the right type of equipment for the right situation is vital to promoting patient safety during transfers and lifts. Some of the main types of safe-patient-handling equipment includes:

  1. Transfer and slide sheets – Aid in repositioning and side-to-side transfers.
  2. Mechanical lifts and hoists – Provide full-body support during lifting patients from a chair or bed. These lifts perform the same functions as a ceiling lift, but can be moved from one location to another.
  3. Sit-to-stand devices – Help patients transition between sitting and standing.
  4. Ceiling lifts – Installed overhead and used for various transfers. These lifts are always present in the room when needed.

Choosing the right equipment is essential and requires an understanding of the specific type of transfer needed for a given situation. Regular maintenance and equipment inspection is also important to ensure these tools are available and function correctly each time they are needed.

Overcoming Challenges

Resistance to using patient lifting equipment can occur due to staff misconceptions or unfamiliarity. To address this, healthcare leaders must promote comprehensive staff understanding of equipment and enhance their familiarity with this equipment. Regular feedback sessions with healthcare professionals can provide valuable insights and suggestions for improvements.


In the ever-evolving world of healthcare, the safety of patients and staff remains a consistent priority. Safe patient handling isn’t just about the patient; it’s about ensuring the well-being of those dedicated professionals who care for them. Embracing the proper techniques and equipment ensures everyone’s safety.

At Joerns, we are committed to helping healthcare leaders promote patient and staff safety. Our state-of-the-art equipment and transfer educational materials will help you ensure your staff is following the best practices for patient lifting and reduce your facility’s safety risk.

Safe Patient Handling Infographic CTA

Stay Connected

© 2024 Joerns Healthcare. All Rights Reserved.

Web Design by NVISION