EMS Providers Should Consider the Benefits of Lifts - Patient Care - @ JEMS.com

EMS Providers Should Consider the Benefits of Lifts

Slings are easy to operate and come in handy for heavier patients



Thom Dick | From the November 2011 Issue | Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Paramedic Steve Steele and his partner, Stephen Begay, were called to a skilled-nursing facility a few weeks ago. There, they encountered a 300-lb., 5'2" woman in respiratory distress.

Steele has been a medic for more than 30 years—long enough to know that sick people are getting heavier. And certainly long enough to understand how dangerous this woman’s body habitus was for any EMS crew. Why was it dangerous? Because not only was she heavy, but she also had no bony “handles.” So she defied the system of leverages one normally applies when they lift people. And this particular woman was neither able to move herself nor able to help the crew.

Like so many of us, Steele has suffered numerous back injuries in the past related to lifting with cold joints, ligaments and muscles. It’s likely that at least some of those injuries were because, like most of us, he was taught in his early days not to let sick people walk. That meant he did a lot of unnecessary lifting and carrying.

I know, Life-Saver. You’re thinking of stair chairs. They’re essential tools. But if the early ones had made perfect sense, we’d have used them more. Even the ones we use today are primarily descent devices. Not only that, but not all people fit in stair chairs, and stair chairs are still not always the best conveyances. Their small wheels and upright designs are simply not suitable for moving anyone much farther than a few feet (certainly not over irregular terrain). So using one still presupposes lifting, weight-bearing, carrying and dragging maneuvers by you-know-who. And that’s a problem. Think about all those other professional power-lifters. Before they attempt a potential maximum-capacity lift, they get to warm up for at least 20–30 minutes. We don’t.

But that 30-year background should tell you that Steele’s a very smart guy. Steele and Begay applied an “Aha!” strategy. Noticing their patient was already lying on a Hoyer sling, they asked a certified nursing assistant (CNA) at the facility if they could access the facility’s lift.

A Hoyer Lift is a transfer device composed of a soft, reinforced sling and a small, portable crane that works like an auto mechanic’s engine hoist. In fact, when R.R. Stratton applied for a U.S. patent (#2706120) for the first one in 1955, the patent application specifically referred to it as “an automotive engine hoist.”1

A Hoyer Lift’s operation is simple. You situate the lift’s horizontal boom directly over the patient. Then you attach the sling to a yoke on the lift, and the lift does all the work. In fact, in this situation, a pair of CNAs operated the lift themselves and put the patient on the ambulance cot.

The two Steves transported their patient to a community hospital, where the hospital staff then used their lift to move the patient from the ambulance cot to their bed. The medics then returned the sling to the discharging facility. Neat, huh?

To perform all their other duties, CNAs have to move sick people just like we do—only they don’t have access to a lot of help. They’re routinely required to get people onto and off of commodes and into and out of showers. They also need to move people between beds and wheelchairs, pretty much by themselves. It makes sense that every skilled-nursing facility would have one or more Hoyer lifts (or similar transfer devices) and use them all the time.

In the past, Hoyers (also called sling lifts) were designed around a manual hydraulic jack. You can still find the manual ones online, but most now have motors that are battery-powered. Hospitals typically have not one, but several. We were able to borrow one from a small community hospital so we could train with it.

On the subject of training, ample resources are available online, including step-by-step narrated videos. Hoyer specifies that it takes a minimum of two people to operate one of their lifts. Configurations include wall-mounted and ceiling-mounted lifts, as well as mobile ones. You can get slings from various manufacturers in a range of sizes for about $50 (disposable) to $500 (reusable).

Appreciation for CNAs is even cheaper. That’ll cost you between $10 (for an occasional dozen donuts) and nothing at all (for hugs).

They could really use both. JEMS

1. IP.com. (2009-2011). Floor Crane with Adjustable Legs. In Intellectual Property. Retrieved Oct. 5, 2011, from http://ip.com/patent/US2706120.

This article originally appeared in November 2011 JEMS as “Bring a Sling: Humble Hoyer deserves an EMS look.”

Connect: Have a thought or feedback about this? Add your comment now
Related Topics: Patient Care, Special Patients, Tricks of the Trade, Thom Dick, Hoyer Lift, Jems Tricks of the Trade

Author Thumb

Thom Dick

has been involved in EMS for 43 years, 23 of them as a full-time EMT and paramedic in San Diego County. He's currently the quality care coordinator for Platte Valley Ambulance, a hospital-based 9-1-1 system in Brighton, Colo. Contact him at boxcar_414@comcast.net.


What's Your Take? Comment Now ...

Buyer's Guide Featured Companies

Featured Careers & Jobs in EMS

Get JEMS in Your Inbox


Fire EMS Blogs

Blogger Browser

Today's Featured Posts


EMS Airway Clinic

Improving Survival from Cardiac Arrest Using ACD-CPR + ITD

Using active compression-decompression CPR with an ITD has been shown to improve 1-year survival from cardiac arrest by 33%.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Philadelphia Fire Department Apologizes for Medic’s Jab at Police

Union head calls photos a slap in the face of officers.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

D.C. Fire and EMS Crews Blame New Technology for Patient’s Death

Delayed response blamed on recurring dispatch problems.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

Suspect Steals, Crashes Maryland Ambulance

One killed, others injured in Prince George’s County crash.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

Tennessee Trench Rescue

Worker pulled from Roane County worksite.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Time’s Ebola Firefighters

Doctors, nurses and others saluted for fighting virus.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

Car Strikes Manhattan Pedestrians

Seven people hurt when car jumps curb.
More >

Multimedia Thumb

The AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher Conversion Kit - EMS Today 2013

AmbuBus®, Bus Stretcher all-hazards preparedness & response tool
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

Braun Ambulances' EZ Door Forward

Helps to create a safer ambulance module.
Watch It >

Multimedia Thumb

Field Bridge Xpress ePCR on iPad, Android, Kindle Fire

Sneak peek of customizable run forms & more.
Watch It >

More Product Videos >