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Fowler's Position

Fowler's Position

Fowler's position is a characteristic position that is used in nursing which helps ease the discomfort of patients. Let us study this concept in more detail.
Rujuta Borkar
Did You Know?
This position is named after George Ryerson Fowler. He served as a surgeon in the Spanish-American War in 1898. He was the first president and founder of the Brooklyn Red Cross in 1884 and also introduced first-aid instruction to the New York National Guard.

Here's something that will help you understand what this entails. Let's say that you just had a very heavy meal and have come into the living room to watch a film. You sit with your legs crossed because there is no room left on the couch. After sometime, someone leaves for a nap and there is some space created. So what do you do? You spread out your legs and release them to feel more comfortable. Doing that gives you an instant feeling of comfort and your legs feel better after being released from their confined, cramped position. Thus the position of legs sprawled is more comfortable and puts you at instant ease than sitting in a cramped, crossed-legged position. Correct?
The Fowler's position is something like that. It is a specific position that is adjusted on the patient's bed in a hospital and is used to put patients at ease and to make them more comfortable. This eases their stress and brings instant comfort to them. The Fowler's position was named after the renowned surgeon George Ryerson Fowler for inventing this particular position that helped in patient aftercare. What is the Fowler's position in nursing and how does it help patients is what we will see in the sections that follow.
The Characteristics
The Fowler's position is a standard position that is used as a part of patient care. In this, the head of the bed (on which the patient is placed) is raised in a range of 15 - 90 degrees from the original, flat position, depending on the ailment of the person. Along with that, the knees of the patient are slightly elevated as well. This is done so that the patient feels comfortable and is able to recover faster. Placing pillows behind the patient's head, lower back and under the forearms, ankles, and thighs for support is also standard procedure and is known to lead to a lot of comfort.
The bed might also be equipped with a footboard in order to keep the patient's feet in proper alignment and to prevent footdrop.
Other than that, the other reasons for which this position is used is for improving breathing in patients who cannot move at all, relaxing the abdominal muscles―especially after surgery, to improve uterine drainage of women post delivery, and for lending comfort while eating.
There are varied other positions that fall under this category. These have to do with the varying degrees of position types. Here are some of the ones that are used in nursing homes.

Position Degree
High 80 - 90º
Standard 45 - 60º
Semi 30 - 45º
Low 15 - 30º
High Fowler's Position
High Fowler's Position
In this, the patient is put on the bed and the bed is raised to an 80 - 90º angle. Usually, the knees of the patient are slightly raised as well―either by adjusting the bed or by placing pillows under the knees. However, depending on the specific condition that the patient is being treated for, the knees may or may not be elevated.

This position may be used for the treatment of these conditions.
  • This position is usually used when there is feeding of the patient involved. The position allows for proper feeding of the patient without it causing any complications, like the food entering the nasal pipe (which is a possibility when the patient is in a supine position).
  • The high position is also used when a patient is facing breathing problems and a treatment for the same is being administered.
  • So also, when there is a need to take particular type of x-rays, this position is used.
  • A patient is placed in this position after an abdominal procedure is conducted because it promotes dependent drainage.
  • Another reason for using this position is for the purpose of grooming a patient.
Standard Fowler's Position
Standard Fowler's Position
In this position, the head of the bed is raised at a 45 - 60º angle and the person is in a position that is half-sleeping, half-straight. This position is maintained for the treatment of the following conditions.This position is maintained for the treatment of the following conditions.
  • This position is often used during surgeries that are performed on the nasal and oral cavities.
  • This position especially helps in promoting drainage and preventing aspiration―which is, inhaling substances from the stomach into the respiratory tract.
  • The standard Fowler's position is also used as the perfect means to increase comfort of the patient.
  • It also improves the ventilation and promotes relaxation after a thoracic surgery, or for patients who experience cardiovascular problems.
Semi-Fowler's Position
Semi-Fowler's Position
In this position, the head of the bed is raised at a 30 - 45º angle and the patient is made to lie in a supine position. A supine position is one in which the person lies on his back with his legs completely flexed and hands straight. This position may be used for the treatment of these conditions.
  • This position is ideally used for patients who are being fed with the help of feeding tubes, as well as for patients who have a nasogastric tube in place for the purpose of administering drugs. This is because, if a patient lies at a straight angle, the feeding tube contents can run into his lungs and cause complications.
  • It is also used for shoulder, cranial, nasal, breast reconstruction, and/or abdominoplasty procedures.
  • This position releases the tension of the abdominal muscles, thereby improving the breathing of the patient.
  • This position is also used to improve the uterine drainage in postpartum women.
  • This is a helpful position for patients who have respiratory, cardiac, or neurological problems.
Low Fowler's Position
Low Fowler's Position
In this position, the head of the bed is raised at a 15 - 30º angle and the patient is just about raised from the flat position on the bed. This position is used in these situations.
  • This position is used for administering drugs, for example, putting eye drops.
  • Many times, lying down flat on the bed can lead to a strain on the lower back. Raising the bed to the low Fowler's position is known to bring some relief to the patients.
The Fowler's position is a very important position in nursing and the medical field because of the way in which it helps in caregiving to the patients. It makes the process extremely easy and relaxing for the patient and thereby helps in faster and better recovery.
Disclaimer - This article is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject.