10 Tips for Transporting Obese Patients

When transporting obese patients, each situation will be different. The following tips can assist any service involved in bariatric transports.
  1. Always treat the obese patient with dignity.
  2. Establish a system to safely handle bariatric transports: Write protocols so your crews know what to do. Practice for these runs.
  3. Never hurry: Even when transporting an emergency patient you must think ahead, anticipate obstacles and proactively resolve problems. Assign a member of your staff to specialize in bariatric transfers.
  4. Locate obese patients beforehand: Preplan for future runs to each patient's residence.
  5. Evaluate patient mobility prior to transport: The size and shape of a patient can greatly determine how you proceed with the transport. How well the patient can ambulate can also greatly impact the transport and number of people needed to assist.
  6. Scene assessments must be performed at receiving and destination facilities: Prior to making the transport, check the width of the doors — all doors. Check for steps because they're hard to master with multiple crew members and will cause enormous problems.
  7. Vehicle placement: Place your ambulance so terrain works in your favor when loading and unloading the patient. Example: on a slight down slope when placing the patient on board.
  8. Personnel: Make sure you have sufficient personnel to safely move your patient. Once you begin to move an obese patient, it may be too late to call for additional assistance.
  9. Have a back-up plan: In the event your cot won't work for the situation, have some type of device or material available to accommodate the weight or size of the patient. Move the patient as close as possible to the door so your crew doesn't have to carry them a great distance.
  10. Moving from bed to cot: Never use a cot that's not designed to hold your patient's weight. Use either a slide board or waffle air mattress. If you use a waffle mattress, inflate it prior to moving the patient from the bed to the cot.

Editor's note: For more information on transporting obese patients, please read Handle With Care from January 2002 JEMS.

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