How to Do a Side Transfer

When designing the Seating Matters chairs I had to be mindful of many different users and functions.

As well as designing for the patient I was also designing with the carer in mind.  To be effective, the chairs must meet the clinical goals of the patient whilst also being manageable and easy to use for the care giver, to ensure that all functions of the chair are properly used to ensure best outcomes.

I asked myself and my peers about their struggles with existing seating.  Numerous answers arose from complicated adjustments, to being too heavy or too hard to steer.  However there was one challenge that really stood out as a common frustration among OTs, PTs, caregivers and family members, and that was performing safe and efficient transfers from the chair to bed, or commode etc.

With this in mind I made it my mission to make these transfers much easier, faster, safer and less time consuming to create a better user experience for both patient and caregiver.

If you would benefit from a joint assessment with a Seating Specialist to assist you with a patient or a Chair Demonstration to see how our range of chairs may work with your manual handling equipment, please click here to book this free service.



In talking about transfers we usually focus on three main types of transfers:

1. Side transfer / Sliding board transfer

Patients who use a wheelchair might be able to side transfer with the use of a sliding board or with assistance from a carer.

Typically patients will need to move from wheelchair to a more comfortable chair, or bed, or commode.  This can be a difficult process if the chair has not been designed sympathetically with such transfers in mind.  There are a few things to think about :

  • Safety to patient during transfer.
  • Comfort and dignity of patient during transfer.
  • Manual handling risk to patient and caregiver during transfer.
  • The height of both surfaces which the patient is transferring to and from.

2. Stand transfer

Suitable for clients who still have the ability to weight bear and take weight through both feet and who are able to maintain a level of independence.  Usually to perform a stand transfer safely a level of assistance is required.

3. Hoist transfer / Patient lift transfer / Sling transfer

For those patients who are immobile and cannot assist with either of the afformentioned transfers a hoist or patient lift is the only option available to move patients from chair to bed to shower and so on.  There are two ways in which a person can be hoisted - 

  • Frontal Transfer - transferring straight into the chair from the front of the chair.
  • Side Transfer- hoist transfers the person in sideways into the chair.

Points to note:  Do the wheels of the patient lift device fit underneath the chair?

Having the chair in slight tilt helps to ensure a better position for the patient.

Sling should be removed if possible from under the patient to aloow the patient to benefit from being loaded directly onto the pressure redistribution materials of the chair.

We had the pleasure of working closely with Aideen Gallagher OT from Risk Managed on producing a series of transfer videos demonstrating all three transfers.  In this blog and video, the first in the series we are focusing on side transfers.  

The Seating Matters chairs make side transfers easier by incorporating certain functions within their design:

1. Removable arms

On the Seating Matters Phoenix and Sorrento the arms are fully removable within seconds, and with no tools required.  This allows the arms to be completely taken away so that they are not hindering any side transfers.  This is easily completed by a caregiver, OT or family member within a hospital, care home or home environment, by locating and loosening the thumb screws and carefullly pulling the arm out, ensuring it is left in a safe place to avoid tripping hazards or other injuries, until the transfer has been completed.


2. Drop down arms

There is also the option of drop down arms which the user in the chair can operate themselves allowing them to easily transfer onto a commode or into bed.  This is a great option for those patients who are independent enough to self transfer laterally.  

We work closely with manual handling advisors to ensure that our chair designs are compatible with most hoists and all slings taking the workload off the carer and helping them perform their daily tasks with ease.  In my own experience as an OT of transferring patients I understand that it can be very hard work and tough on the caregivers as well as patients, if the equipment provided doesn't cater to the needs of the patient and caregiver.  






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