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WHEELED STRETCHERS

Category: EMS Operations

Topic: Workforce Safety and Wellness

Level: EMT

Next Unit: Portable and Specialty Stretchers

15 minute read

 

Wheeled stretchers are the most commonly used stretcher devices in EMS today and are the main catalyst for patient movement from the scene to the ambulance, and from the ambulance to the destination point.

Wheeled stretchers typically consist of a metal frame with four caster-type wheels (most stretchers have at least six, one on each corner and a separate pair at the rear for loading the device into the ambulance), a patient mattress pad, and several straps to secure the patient (at minimum, a legs strap, an abdomen or waist strap, and a chest strap that often has vertical shoulder harnesses).

Some wheeled stretchers will also have an IV stand, rack on the back that can be used for storage of equipment (oxygen, sheets, etc.), and even armrests for the patient.

All wheeled stretchers should only be operated by EMS professionals that are trained and comfortable in their use.

 

Positions of Wheeled Stretchers

Wheeled stretchers have several different settings for the angle at which the patient is positioned including the ability to place the patient

  • flat on their back or supine (180º: for treatment, comfort, or to transport an immobilized patient),
  • sitting up or in Fowler's position (90º  angle), and most have
  • settings to position the patient at multiple angles in between.

Most wheeled stretchers also have the ability to

  • lift the legs of the patient, also known as the Trendelenburg position.

HEIGHT: Patients can be loaded onto the wheeled stretcher in a variety of ways, as most wheeled stretchers also have the ability to lock at certain selected heights.

A wheeled stretcher can be adjusted to the correct height allowing a patient that is able to simply sit on the device under their own power (or be extremity lifted, direct lifted, etc.), or can be adjusted to the height of a bed and the patient moved to the device by the draw sheet method.

Regardless of how the patient is moved to the wheeled stretcher, it is most often the final means of transportation with EMS.

 

Pneumatic and Electronic Stretchers: 

Pneumatic and/or electronic stretchers reduce the amount of physical strain EMS professionals face and allow for push-button automatic height adjustment and sometimes loading of the stretcher, with or without a patient. Pneumatic and/or electronic stretchers are becoming more and more popular and are statistically proven to reduce back injuries in EMS professionals.

As with all devices in EMS, only professionals that have been trained and are comfortable with the pneumatic or electronic stretcher should be involved in the use of the device.

  • PNEUMATIC STRETCHERS: require an air supply to function.
  • ELECTRONIC STRETCHERS: require a battery source to function

Both are commercialized and often available from the manufacturer of the device. Both have the same functions of, and included components as, the normal wheeled stretchers, including a metal frame with four caster-type wheels (most stretchers have at least six, one on each corner and a separate pair at the rear for loading the device into the ambulance), a patient mattress pad, and several straps to secure the patient (at minimum, a legs strap, an abdomen or waist strap, and a chest strap that often has vertical shoulder harnesses).

Most pneumatic and/or electronic stretchers will also have an IV stand, rack on the back that can be used for storage of equipment (oxygen, sheets, etc.), and even armrests for the patient.

Pneumatic and/or electronic stretchers have several different settings for the angle at which the patient is positioned including the ability to place the patient

  • flat on the back or supine (180º: for treatment, comfort, or to transport an immobilized patient),
  • sitting up or in Fowler's position (90º angle),

and most have settings to position the patient at multiple angles in between.

Most pneumatic and/or electronic stretchers also have the ability to lift the legs of the patient, also known as the

  • Trendelenburg position.

HEIGHT: Patients can be loaded onto the pneumatic and/or electronic stretcher in a variety of ways, as most pneumatic and/or electronic stretchers also have the ability to lock at certain selected heights. A pneumatic and/or electronic stretcher can be adjusted to the correct height allowing a patient that is able to simply sit on the device under their own power (or be extremity lifted, direct lifted, etc.), or can be adjusted to the height of a bed and the patient moved to the device by the draw sheet method.

It is important that the EMS professional use caution when utilizing pneumatic and/or electronic stretchers as the risk for injury during incorrect or negligent use is much higher due to the mechanical nature of the devices, and they are much heavier than non-mechanical devices.

Backup or reserve air for pneumatic devices and backup or reserve batteries for electronic devices are recommended to be stored on the ambulance due to unforeseen circumstances that may drain current power supplies.

Most pneumatic and/or electronic stretchers will have a manual override ability that can be used in the instance of power failure. Each specific stretcher will have its own manufacturer specific guidelines for use of this feature and EMS professionals should be comfortable in its use.

Pneumatic and/or electric stretchers are becoming more widely used and are a welcomed addition to EMS to prevent injuries and extend careers, but they are very expensive, preventing more budgeted services from obtaining them.