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A Guide to Patient Positioning for Nurses

Patient positioning is a critical aspect of the nursing practice. Patient positioning involves maintaining a patient’s good body alignment by constantly changing their position in a systematic way. Other principles of patient positioning should also be considered.

Positioning patients properly is very important for a number of reasons including airway management, ventilation, controlling unnecessary exposure, and most importantly for physiological safety.

Here’s a short list of 5 common patient positions essential for nurses to know -

Fowler Position

  • In Fowler’s position, head and trunk are raised 40 to 90 degrees.
  • In low Fowler’s position, head and trunk are raised to 15 to 45 degrees.
  • In high Fowler’s position, again head and trunk are raised to 90 degrees.

The Fowler position is recommended for patients suffering from respiratory, cardiac or neurological problems. In these positions keep the patient’s feet in alignment with a footboard.

Orthopneic or Tripod Position

  • In this position, the patient is placed either in a sitting position or on the side of the bed with an over-bed table placed in front to lean on. Several pillows are also placed on the table to rest on.

Patients who are suffering from breathing problems are placed in the tripod position as it allows expansion of the chest and makes breathing easier.

Supine or Dorsal Position

  • Supine is a back-lying position but head and shoulders here are not elevated.

Patients who have undergone any type of surgery are generally placed in this position. It helps them recover while giving them comfort.

Prone Position

In this position, the patient lies on their abdomen with their head turned to one side. This position allows the hips to flex while also allowing for full extension of the knee joints.

This position is for patients who are either unconscious or who have undergone surgery of the mouth or throat. A pillow under the head, along with a towel roll under the abdomen, is placed to provide support to a patient lying in the prone position.

Lateral Position

  • Lateral position, also referred to as side-lying position, is when the patient lies on one side of the body. In this position, the top leg is placed in front of the bottom leg and hip, knees are flexed.
  • In this position, most of the body weight is distributed to the lateral aspect of the lower scapula and the greater trochanter of the femur.

Lateral position helps relieve pressure on the sacrum and heels and is a much needed relief for people who sit for most of the day.

Patient positioning is an important aspect of patient care services and is part of a nurse’s job. That’s why, to be truly effective, nurses must know about all of the different patient positions.

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Author - Andrea


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