Using a Patient Transfer Board: Questions and Answers
What is a transfer board?
A patient transfer board is used to help a patient to another seated position on a chair, bed or wheelchair. It is a long, smooth board usually about two feet long.
Who can use a transfer board?
Patients who have good upper trunk strength, strong arms and chest, but who have difficulty with standing are candidates for transferring with a transfer board. They may be paraplegics or hemiplegics. They may also include people who have just had knee, ankle or foot surgery, have a broken leg, or have a wound or cast on their leg or legs. A transfer board is best used by patients who can bear weight with their arms briefly. It is important also that the patient is able to understand and follow simple commands or reminders.
Patients who are unable to sit up independently should not be transferred using a transfer board. A patient transfer board should not be used for patients who are sleepy, dizzy, disoriented, or off-balance. Patients who are combative should not be transferred with a transfer board.
You might be interested in our article about Wheelchair Ramps.
What’s the weight capacity of the board?
Transfer boards have a weight capacity, which means the weight they are designed to hold.
Caregiver-Aid offers transfer boards with five different variations. Made by Graham-Field they have different lengths and hands hold configurations. Most have a weight capacity of 440 lbs. There is one bariatric model with a 735 lb. weight capacity. You can find these in our Bath Shop category. Choose your board according to the weight and size of intended user.
Where can you use a transfer board?
It is best to have some clutter-free space to move around in when using a transfer board. The caregiver should consider how to position the patient and the furniture, and have plan for a safe transfer before attempting the move. For the caregiver’s safety, the space must have room for the caregiver to stand near the patient and to stand with a wide stance. Caregivers should be careful about attempting transfers around slippery floors and surfaces or areas where there are obstacles.
If you are moving the patient from a wheelchair to a bed or other chair, then be certain that the brakes of the wheelchair are ON before attempting the transfer. You don’t want the wheelchair to roll anywhere while transferring. Make certain that the landing area is solid and stable. You don’t want to overturn or collapse the chair or bed. Transfer only to a heavy, solid, stable furniture piece.
Transferring the Patient
When transferring the patient, the transfer board should be no higher or lower than one-half inch of the other surface, such as a wheelchair and a couch. The surfaces should be close together and at nearly the same height. The board is not to be used for pushing or pulling the patient to another place. With most hospital beds, you can adjust the height of the bed. You may be able to find a particular chair in your home that is the right height for a transfer of the patient. Even ordinary household furniture can be fitted with risers on the legs to make them more useful.
The patient should use one arm and hand to hold onto a stable surface. This could be an armrest on a brake-locked wheelchair, a chair’s arm, a grab bar, or even around the caregiver’s shoulders until they are positioned securely in the intended seat. The patient should wear a gait belt when transferring so the caregiver can handle the patient safely.
What are the advantages to the caregiver and patient?
For a caregiver, a patient transfer board eliminates the strain on one’s back ordinarily experienced in lifting a patient completely. For a patient, a transfer board provides safety and ease in moving to a seat. Most patients who are able to use a transfer board can learn to do it with only a little help, and some can use a transfer board completely independently. It is useful to practice, so the patient knows what to expect and so the caregiver can be certain that the patient is safe. Caregivers should anticipate where a transfer may be regularly made in daily activities, and plan to arrange furniture and equipment for it.
How can I learn how to use a transfer board with my loved one?
Ask your home health care aide or nurse to demonstrate moving the patient with a transfer board. A nurse or a physical therapist at your physician’s office may be available to demonstrate. Or, here’s an informative video of a physical therapist demonstrating a bed to wheelchair move with a transfer board.
Reference: Safe Patient Handling Training for Schools of Nursing, Curricular Materials. DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2009-127, November 2009.