Flexible rescue stretchers and cots are often misused or misinterpreted, so here’s an itemization of what to use and when, for safer and simpler patient transports.
Method 1: The sheet drag
Many medical team members use a bed sheet to transfer patients from bed to bed. Scientific studies have evidenced that a bed sheet is not an accepted patient transfer device. A bed sheet lacks the handles which alter grip and hand position.
If we follow the recommendations from the NHS, we need to keep spinal stress force below roughly 360Kg. However, moving around only a 47Kg patient with only a bed sheet sandwiched between two beds, will apply an approximate load of between 400 to 800Kg of compression force. These days we all know that patients weigh on average a lot more than 47Kg too. Each suspected spinal injury case can realistically apply over 1000Kg of force on the spine for each case. Disturbingly, injury begins to occur at 360Kg of force. Now you can see why bed sheets are so bad.
Method 2: The smooth transfer
In many departments of the NHS, the one piece of gear that is systematically misused or unused completely is the flexible stretcher.
Flexible stretchers have been advertised to us as tools used only for overweight patients so they stay in the ambulance or on a ward and remain unused for most patients.
By making use of the flexible stretcher, a tool already paid for, you can perform some clever tricks with it. Initially, both paramedics or nurses can remain on one side of the bed. Two individuals pulling is much more effective than one pulling from the bedside and one attempting to push on the other. The vinyl tarps also reduce the spinal load to well below the 360Kg of compressive force mentioned earlier. Thus, a potentially dangerous manoeuvre is suddenly much safer.
Also, when you finally get to the hospital, the injured person is still on the tarp, so simply slide the patient over, with both of you on the same side and recover the tarp again.
Unlike a sliding board, tarps can be used for slides, drags, lifts, and transfers. Tarps are also easier to clean and quickly fold up again, ready for the next patient.
Stretchers: Cot or Pram?
The ambulance’s stretcher is one the most expensive and heavy tools that paramedics use. It’s also the tool that gets the biggest amount of misuse due to operator error and personal understanding of the manufacturer’s suggested use procedures.