Patient Positioning Cheat Sheet

As a nurse, you know that positioning can be about so much more than just patient comfort. The right position can have a huge impact on patient health and recovery, and knowing the correct position for each patient care situation is crucial. Here is a cheat sheet of some common patient positions and their uses:


A bed position where the head and trunk are raised, typically between 40-90°. This position is often used for patients who have cardiac issues, trouble breathing, or a nasogastric tube in place.


This position involves the patient lying on either her right or left side. Right lateral means the patient’s right side is touching the bed, while left lateral means the patient’s left side is touching the bed. A pillow is often placed in between the legs for patient comfort.


This position involves the patient lying flat on her back with legs elevated to hip level or above, often supported by stirrups. It is commonly used for gynecological procedures and childbirth.


A position where the patient lies on his stomach with his back up. The head is typically turned to one side. This position allows for drainage of the mouth after oral or neck surgery. It also allows for full flexion of knee and hip joints.

Reverse Trendelenburg

The patient is supine with the head of the bed elevated and the foot of the bed down. This position may be used in surgery to help promote perfusion in obese patients. It can also be helpful in treating venous air embolism and preventing pulmonary aspiration.

Sim’s Position

A prone/lateral position in which the patient lies on his side with his upper leg flexed and drawn in towards the chest, and the upper arm flexed at the elbow. Sim’s position is useful for administering enemas, perineal examinations, and for comfort in pregnancy.


A position where the patient is flat on his back. Supine is considered the most natural “at rest” position, and is often used in surgery for abdominal, facial, and extremity procedures.


This position involves a supine patient and sharply lowering the head of the bed and raising the foot, creating an “upside down” effect. In the past, this position was frequently used to treat hypotension, although this has fallen out of favor in recent years due to studies showing it to be ineffective and potentially dangerous. It is helpful during gynecological and abdominal hernia surgeries, and in the placement of central lines.

Patient Positioning Cheat Sheet

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