By Steve Bolduc
Published on January 3, 2022
A bariatric bed is a specialized bed made specifically to accommodate larger and heavier patients. It is wider than regular medical beds and allows for more comfort and dignity for those patients.
Before addressing the most important features for bariatric beds, it is important to remember why every institution should always have bariatric beds readily available. “The hospital bed is an important medical device upon which patients may remain for days or weeks. Even during peak waking hours, patients spend 83% of their time in bed’’.¹
The availability of appropriately sized beds can help reduce rental costs, and “enable greater throughput and turnover from the emergency department, intensive care unit, and operating room.”² It also provides a better and safer experience for the patient.
There are several important features to keep in mind when deciding which bariatric bed would be best suited for your care centre in order to meet your care teams’ needs and ensure patient dignity and safety:
“Some of this equipment is generally available in a single size (e.g., one-size-fits-all or one-size-fits-most), patients who are obese may require larger equipment to ensure both safe care for them and a safe working environment for any providers responsible for caring for them. In Patient Safety’s analysis, they identified issues with these other types of equipment, and these could generally be categorized into one of two groups: events in which the patient was too big for the equipment and events in which equipment was too large to be moved around a facility or into a transport vehicle. Both event types have the potential to cause humiliation or distress for patients, injuries, and delays in care.”³
To ensure that it can support any patient coming into the facility, a bariatric bed should be able to accommodate a safe working load up to 1000 lb. The weight capacity of the bed needs to be high to ensure that the patient and all the required bed accessories needed to care for the patient, like IV poles, support surface and patient helper, can be supported by the bed. Great bariatric beds should also be able to function properly when being used by a lighter patient. Some bariatric beds require a minimum weight for the patient to use certain functions, such as the scale.
Having a low height bariatric bed is beneficial for both your healthcare personnel and your patients. A medical bed should go low enough for patients to safely ingress and egress the bed, thus minimizing the risk of falls. In contrast, the bed should also rise high enough so caregivers can work with little to no bending to help minimize stress and strain.
Furthermore, height adjustments make it easier for staff to position patients properly. Easy bed height adjustments also offer bariatric patients a dignified experience by allowing them to avoid getting up and down from the bariatric beds too frequently.
“A patient of size placed on a bed of insufficient size or weight capacity may experience negative outcomes including increased risk of pressure injury, decline in functional independence due to difficulty repositioning, or sleep deprivation due to discomfort.’’⁴
Having an adjustable bariatric bed allows patients of almost any size, within the weight capacity of the bed, to be comfortable and have space to move around. Weight distribution can look different from one patient to another. It is important to have beds that can easily adapt to anyone.
Bariatric beds, because of their high weight capacity, are heavier and usually harder to move around. It is important for the staff to be able to move the bed easily, with or without a patient in it. Most bariatric beds require multiple people to move them when a patient is in them as most medical facilities are understaffed, the care teams’ efforts and time should not be put towards struggling to move the bed around, it should be put towards caring for the patient.
Having a bariatric bed that works with the accessories of your other beds makes life a lot easier for the hospital staff. IV poles, urinal holders, oxygen holders, removable pump holders, and side rail pads should not differ from one bed to another. Having the same bed platform on all your medical beds, including bariatric, makes it a lot easier for your team when setting up a room for a patient. It ensures that the needed accessories can be found quickly without having to rent them or having maintenance staff go look through specialty accessories. Additionally, using beds that are all built on the same platform makes learning how to use the products much easier for your staff, as all the beds function the same.
When a bariatric bed is designed with bariatric patients in mind, the staff members can handle their patients more safely and provide them with comfort and dignity. Med-Surg beds and bariatric beds should not look any different. Having a beautifully designed bed can seem vain, but it provides dignity to the patient. It ensures that every bariatric patient going through the hospital doors feels the same as any other patient.
Bariatric beds should be easy to use for hospital staff. Having a short learning curve will make staff confident and increase efficiency when using the bed, even if they do not use it every day. Beds built on the same platform make it easy for healthcare personnel to know exactly how to operate the beds, as they all work on the same system and software.
Furthermore, having a versatile bariatric bed will also help staff be more familiar with the bed, as it can be used more often and in more contexts.
Every bed coming into a hospital or care centre should be easy to clean to support infection prevention programs and protocols. When choosing a bariatric bed, here are some elements that should be considered to ensure easy cleaning:
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