Pulling a Patient Up in Bed

Two healthcare providers moving patient up in hospital bed.

Think of ways you can decrease friction to make this move more comfortable for the patient and to reduce the stress on your back. It is easier to slide a patient up in bed by using a draw-sheet and two people. It is better to wait for help than to risk injury to the patient or yourself.

Step 1. Grasp the draw-sheet

  • Put the head of the bed down and adjust the top of the bed to waist- or hip-level of the shorter person.

  • Be sure no catheters or other tubes are attached to the sheets.

  • Be sure the wheels of the bed are locked.

  • Grasp the draw-sheet, pointing one foot in the direction you’re moving the patient.

Step 2. Pull up

  • Lean in the direction of the move, using your legs and body weight.

  • Ask the patient to cross their arms over their chest.

  • On the count of 3, lift and pull the patient up. Repeat this step as many times as needed to position the patient. Lift with your legs.

  • Also, patients can bend their knees, push down with their feet, and pull up with a trapeze (a device overhead) to help.


  • Putting a pillow under your patients’ feet helps them push down, making it easier for you to pull them up.

  • Never clasp the underarm to move the patient. This may cause injury to the shoulder (for example, dislocation).

  • Don't try to stand by the head of the bed and pull the patient up.

  • If the patient weighs over 200 pounds, consider a different technique (assistive devices or an additional person).

  • Be especially careful to avoid sheer force.

  • Patients will tend to slide down in their bed whenever the head of the bed is elevated. A pillow under their knees should help them slide less.