Transferring a patient to a wheelchair plays an important role in the responsibilities of a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) as they ensure the safety of both the patient and the healthcare professional. In this lesson we will explore the step by step process of moving a patient from a bed to a wheelchair focusing on considerations, techniques and safety precautions.

What do you need to transfer a patient to a wheelchair

Before initiating the transfer process it’s crucial to gather all equipment to ensure a transition:

  • Wheelchair: It’s important to have a maintained wheelchair that is appropriately sized for the patient. This is essential for a transfer.
  • Gait Belt: A gait belt provides stability and support during the transfer by offering a grip. It helps maintain balance and promotes safety for both the patient and CNA.

Balancing Patient Safety and CNA Well being

One of the priorities during transfers is ensuring that both patients are safe and CNAs are not straining their backs. It’s important to involve patients in transfers whenever emphasizing communication throughout the process.

Process to Transfer a Patient to a Wheelchair

Step 1: Initiating the Transfer. Assisting with Sitting Up

  • Positioning of Wheelchair: Start by placing the wheelchair to the bed. To allow access remove one armrest, to the bed and swing away both leg rests.
  • Positioning the Patient: Assist the patient in rolling onto their side facing the wheelchair. Place one arm, under their neck supporting the shoulder blade and use your hand to support their knees.
  • Assisting with Sitting: Help guide the patients legs over the edge of the bed to help them sit up.

Step 2: Moving to a Standing Position. Progressing the Transfer

  • Moving Closer to the Bed Edge: Ask the patient to scoot towards the edge of the bed in preparation for standing up.
  • Consideration for Footwear: Make sure that the patient is wearing socks or shoes with traction to prevent any slips during this transfer.
  • Establishing a Secure Grip: Wrap your arms around their chest. Clasp your hands behind their back. Alternatively you can use a transfer belt for added grip and control.
  • Lifting into a Standing Position: Focus on lifting from their leg that is farthest from the wheelchair. Lean back slightly using your body’s motion and shift your weight to lift them into a standing position.

Step 3: Turning Towards the Chair. Navigating the Pivot

  • Guiding Through The Pivot Motion: Instruct them to turn towards the wheelchair while you maintain a hold, around their chest.
  • Additional Support: If necessary another assistant can offer assistance either to the wheelchair or the patient from behind.

Step 4: Completing the Transfer. Seating the Patient

  • Gentle Descent: As the patient starts to lean, bend your knees simultaneously to help them descend smoothly into the wheelchair.
  • Collaborative Effort: If possible a helper can guide the patient’s buttocks and provide support to stabilize the chair.
  • Adjustments and Comfort: Make sure to readjust the footrests and ensure that the patient’s feet are positioned comfortably within the wheelchair.


Developing expertise in transferring patients from a bed to a wheelchair is a skill for Certified Nursing Assistants. By prioritizing safety, maintaining communication and using proper techniques CNAs can ensure a seamless and secure transfer process. As healthcare professionals committed to improving patients’ well being, CNAs play a role in promoting comfort and mobility during these transitions.