Some UPEI engineering students have come up with an idea to make life a lot easier for patients and staff at the Provincial Palliative Care Centre.

The centre has new mobile stretchers that are used to transfer bed-ridden patients down the hall for their baths. 

rolling patient

The patient has to be rolled on to blankets before being slid on to the mobile stretcher, which can be painful to palliative patients and hard on staff. (Pat Martel/CBC)

But staff soon noticed a problem. When the stretchers are pushed alongside of the bed, they're supposed to overhang just above the mattress, so that patients can be gently rolled onto them.

However, the bottom of the stretchers are hitting the steel bed frames.

'Tremendous difficulties'

"The stretcher that's used to bring a patient from the bed to a bath did not go all the way under the actual bed so that created tremendous difficulties for us," said Dr. Mireille Lecours, provincial palliative care medical consultant.

So instead of being gently rolled onto the stretcher, the patient had to be lugged and pulled. 

Dr. Mireille Lecours

Dr. Mireille Lecours, provincial palliative care medical consultant, says the stretchers that are used to bring a patient from the bed to a bath do not go all the way under the actual bed. 'So instead of being gently rolled onto the stretcher, the patient has to be lugged and pulled.' (Pat Martel/CBC)

Laura Lee McCue is a nurse at the centre. She said all the lifting can be hard on her back, but it's the patients that she worries about more.

Difficult for staff, difficult for patients

"They're in pain, they're sore, you see them grimacing, you see them uncomfortable," she said.

"I just feel upset for the patients and wish we could do something better to make it easier on them."

Almost on cue, a group of UPEI engineering students showed up.

Laura Lee McCue

Laura Lee McCue, a nurse at the centre, says all the lifting can be hard on her back, but it's the patients she worries about. 'They're in pain, they're sore, you see them grimacing, you see them uncomfortable.' (Pat Martel/CBC)

Students help find solution

The School of Sustainable Design Engineering has partnered with more than 20 businesses and community groups to help solve real-world problems, and give students hands-on experience.

Second-year engineering student Dylan McKenna was among the group selected for this project.

The students only had $500 to work with, and came up with a few options. They finally settled on what appears to be a simple solution: build a new mobile platform for the mobile stretcher, with smaller wheels that fit under the bed frames. 

dylan McKenna

Second-year engineering student Dylan McKenna says his group's next challenge is to put the mobile stretcher on top of the newly-built rolling platform. (Pat Martel/CBC)

 "We're really glad to get a solution done that would make the way of life better for the patients," said McKenna.

"To make them more comfortable and they don't have to go through this cruel process anymore." 

'A lot more practical' than a textbook'

The students still have to put the mobile stretcher on top of their new platform. And there's no doubt they'll do it.

UPEI engineering students find a solution to ease the pain of patients who have to be moved0:57

McKenna said he enjoys partnering with people in the community.

"It's a lot more practical than just going over problems from a textbook," he said.

"We actually get to work with real people and real clients to solve real problems."

patient

After much lifting and tugging, the patient (a UPEI student) is finally on the mobile stretcher. What should have taken a few minutes can take up to 15 minutes. (Pat Martel/CBC)

Could help other facilities

If the students' idea does work out at the Provincial Palliative Care Centre, it could also have benefits across the province.  

"The nice thing about what these fellas did is that many other long term care facilities in this province have the same bath tub and stretcher," said Lecours.

"They have the same difficulty with the frame of the bed not allowing this. So what they're doing is actually helping us, but also helping many others in this province.