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How Comfortable are Stretchers?

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Ambulances come equipped to meet many types of medical needs and ambulance providers can give care and treatment for various situations. One of the main components of an ambulance is the stretcher; the bed found in the back of the truck that carries the patient. Stretchers have distinct purposes for transporting patients comfortably to a healthcare center, but they are also specifically designed to provide a safe transport.



Stretchers were originally created as a means of transporting a patient from one area to another, whether it was an ill person who was too weak to walk or an injured person on a battlefield. Stretchers have also been referred to as litters; in which two or more people carry parts of a device that holds a patient. While uncomfortable for the patient, early stretchers typically did their jobs by preventing further injury for those trying to move the person and often avoided the need to pick a person up or drag him along the ground.



Stretchers have come a long way since early times, but still have one of the same purposes in mind: to transport a person who cannot walk to various locations. In many cases, this means using a stretcher to move a person from a scene into an ambulance, to carry a person who is riding in an ambulance, and to transport the person from the ambulance to the healthcare center before transferring him to a bed, cot, or chair.


When used in ambulances, stretchers are designed as small versions of beds, which can be elevated at the head for the patient who needs to sit up. Stretchers have securing mechanisms so that once a patient is in place, a series of straps are secured across his body for the remainder of his time on the stretcher. This reduces the chance of the patient falling during transport.


Because of the need for transport, many patients typically do not find stretchers to be as comfortable as a bed or couch at home. However, stretchers are designed with padding for comfort so the patient does not have to endure the bumps and jolts that may occur, all while secured to a hard bed. The padding found on the stretcher is soft enough to provide some comfort, yet firm enough to give support. The padding on the bed of the stretcher is attached to a frame that is supported on wheels for easier navigation.


After being placed on a stretcher and secured, ambulance personnel can lift or lower the patient’s body when the legs of the stretcher expand or relax. This involves a locking mechanism that must be unlatched by personnel at both ends of the stretcher before lifting or lowering. This design not only protects the patient from falls or being jarred if the height of the stretcher suddenly changes, but it also protects emergency personnel by reducing the burden on their backs that could cause injury while lifting.


The legs of a stretcher collapse as it is moved into the back of the ambulance, and then straighten and lock in place when a stretcher is being taken out. Some companies also have ramps, in which personnel can drive the stretcher up and into the back. Once in the back, the stretcher locks into place to prevent movement while the ambulance is driving. Turns, elevated speeds, and stops could all cause a stretcher to move if it was not secured properly in the back, and this movement could injure the patient or those taking care of him.


The design mechanisms of a stretcher are there for safety, but also for patient comfort. Using a stretcher that can be raised or lowered with ease, as well as one that locks into place is much more comfortable for the patient than being jostled and turned during transfers. This is important to consider, especially when the patient is in critical condition and needs to avoid these movements when possible.

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