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Turning patients over in bed

Changing a patient's position in bed every 2 hours helps keep blood flowing. This helps the skin stay healthy and prevents bedsores.

Turning a patient is a good time to check the skin for redness and sores.

Getting a patient ready

  1. Explain to the patient what you are planning to do so the person knows what to expect. Encourage the person to help you if possible.
  2. Stand on the side of the bed the patient will be turning towards and lower the bed rail.
  3. Ask the patient to look towards you. This will be the direction in which the person is turning.
  4. Move the patient to the center of the bed so the person is not at risk of rolling out of the bed. Make sure the rail is up on the side you are turning the person toward.
  5. The patient's bottom arm should be stretched towards you. Place the person's top arm across the chest.
  6. Cross the patient's upper ankle over the bottom ankle.

If you are turning the patient onto the stomach, make sure the person's bottom hand is above the head first.

Turning a patient

  1. If you can, raise the bed to a level that reduces back strain for you. Make the bed flat.
  2. Get as close to the person as you can.
  3. Place one of your hands on the patient's shoulder and your other hand on the hip.
  4. Standing with one foot ahead of the other, shift your weight to your front foot as you gently pull the patient's shoulder toward you. Then shift your weight to your back foot as you gently pull the person's hip toward you.

You may need to repeat steps 3 and 4 until the patient is in the right position.

When the patient is in the right position

  1. Make sure the patient's ankles, knees, and elbows are not resting on top of each other.
  2. Make sure the head and neck are in line with the spine, not stretched forward, back, or to the side.
  3. Return the bed to a comfortable position with the side rails up. Check with the patient to make sure the patient is comfortable. Use pillows as needed.

Alternative Names

Roll patients in bed


Avent Y. Spotlight on prevention: Pressure Ulcers. Nursing Made Incredibly Easy. 2010 Sept 8(5);21-29.

Smith-Temple J, Johnson JY, eds. Nurses' Guide to Clinical Procedures. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2006:chap 9.

Update Date 2/4/2014

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