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Pulling a patient up in bed


A patient’s body may slowly slide down in bed when the patient is in bed for a long time. The patient may ask to be moved up higher for comfort. The patient also might need to be moved up so a health care provider can do an examination.

Alternate Names

Moving patient in bed

Avoiding Injury

You must move or pull someone up in bed the right way to avoid injuring the patient's shoulders and skin, and to protect your back.

It takes at least two people to safely move a patient up in bed.

Friction from rubbing can scrape or tear the patient’s skin. Common areas at risk for friction are the shoulders, back, buttocks, elbows, and heels.

Never move a patient up by grabbing them under their arms and pulling. It can hurt their shoulders.

Preparing to Move the Patient

A “slide sheet” is the best way to prevent friction. If you do not have one, you can make a “draw sheet” out of a bed sheet that is folded in half. Follow these steps:

  1. Tell the patient what you are doing.
  2. Make the bed flat.
  3. Roll the patient to one side, then place a half rolled-up slide sheet or draw sheet against their back.
  4. Roll the patient onto the sheet and spread the sheet out flat under the patient.
  5. Make sure their head, shoulders, and hips are on the sheet.

Pulling Up

The goal is to pull, not lift, the patient toward the head of the bed.

  1. The two people moving the patient stand on opposite sides of the bed.
  2. Each person grabs the slide sheet or draw sheet on their side. You will put one foot forward as you move the patient in the next step.
  3. On the count of three, move the patient by pulling the sheet toward the head of the bed. You may need to do this more than once to get the patient in the right position.
  4. If you are using a slide sheet, you need to remove it when done.

If the patient can help you, ask the patient to:

  • Bring their chin to their chest and bend their knees. The patient should keep their heels on the bed.
  • Have the patient push with their heels while you pull them up.


Body mechanics and transfer techniques. In: Mills JE, ed.Nursing Practices. 4th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2004.

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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