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How to Use an Automatic Stretcher Safely

Automatic stretchers have revolutionised the field of emergency medical services (EMS) by reducing the physical strain on medical personnel and enhancing patient safety during transport. These motorised devices come with features such as height adjustment, automatic loading and unloading, and advanced suspension systems. However, the effective and safe use of automatic stretchers requires a thorough understanding of their operation and proper techniques. This article provides a detailed guide on how to use an automatic stretcher safely, covering preparation, operation, patient transfer, and loading into the ambulance.

Understanding the Equipment

Before using an automatic stretcher, it is essential for all medical personnel to be thoroughly familiar with its features and functionalities. Automatic stretchers are equipped with electric or hydraulic systems that allow for easy height adjustment, automatic raising and lowering, and seamless loading and unloading from the ambulance. They often include safety features such as locking mechanisms, safety straps, and side rails. Familiarisation with the stretcher’s controls and emergency override functions is crucial for ensuring safe and effective use.

Assessing the Patient and Environment

Before moving the patient, a comprehensive assessment of their condition is necessary. Determine the best method for transfer based on the patient’s injuries or medical condition. For instance, a patient with a suspected spinal injury may require immobilisation using a backboard before being placed on the stretcher. Communicate with the patient to explain the procedure, which can help reduce anxiety and gain their cooperation.

Assessing the environment is equally important. Identify any potential hazards such as uneven surfaces, obstacles, or environmental factors like weather conditions. Ensure that the path to the ambulance is clear and safe for transport. A safe environment reduces the risk of accidents and injuries during the transfer process.

Transferring the Patient to the Stretcher

Transferring the patient onto the stretcher requires careful coordination and proper technique. First, position the stretcher as close to the patient as possible to minimize the distance they need to be moved. Adjust the stretcher height to align with the patient’s current level, whether they are on the ground, a bed, or another surface.

Operating the Automatic Stretcher

Operating an automatic stretcher involves using the built-in controls to adjust the height and position of the stretcher. These controls are typically located on the handles or the side of the stretcher. To raise or lower the stretcher, press the corresponding buttons and ensure the movement is smooth and controlled.

Automatic stretchers often come with tilt functions that allow the head or foot of the stretcher to be elevated or lowered. This can be useful for accommodating patient needs, such as elevating the head for patients with respiratory issues or raising the legs for patients in shock.

Loading into the Ambulance

Loading the stretcher into the ambulance is a critical step that must be performed with precision. Position the stretcher at the back of the ambulance and ensure the loading platform is ready. Automatic stretchers are designed to integrate with ambulance loading systems, allowing for seamless transfer.

Engage the loading mechanism by aligning the stretcher with the ambulance’s loading rails. Activate the automatic loading feature, which will lift and slide the stretcher into the ambulance with minimal effort. Ensure that the stretcher is securely locked in place once inside the ambulance to prevent movement during transport.


Using an automatic stretcher safely requires a combination of technical knowledge, proper technique, and effective communication. By thoroughly understanding the equipment, preparing adequately, assessing the patient and environment, and following best practices for transfer and operation, medical personnel can ensure the safety and comfort of patients during transport.

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