Northside Health Library

Turning patients over in bed


Changing a patient’s position in bed every 2 hours helps keep blood flowing to their skin. This helps their skin stay healthy and prevents bedsores. When you turn a patient, it is a good time to check their skin for redness and sores.

Alternate Names

Roll patient in bed

Getting a Patient Ready

  1. Explain your plan to the patient so the patient will know what is going to happen. Encourage the patient to help you if possible.
  2. Stand on the side the patient will be turning towards and lower the bed rail.
  3. Ask the patient to look towards you -- the way the patient will be turning.
  4. Move the patient to the center of the bed so that the patient doesn’t roll out of bed. Make sure the rail is up on the side you are turning the patient toward.
  5. The patient’s bottom arm should be stretched towards you. Place the patient’s top arm across their chest.
  6. Cross the patient’s upper ankle over the bottom ankle.

If you are turning the patient onto their stomach, make sure their bottom hand is above their head before turning the patient.

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 patient as you can.
  3. Place one of your hands on the patient’s shoulder and your other hand on their hip.
  4. 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 their 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. Also make sure their head and neck are in line with their 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.


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; 2016:chap 9.

Review Date: 1/31/2012
Reviewed By: Jennifer K. Mannheim, ARNP, Medical Staff, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, Seattle Children's Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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