Fowler’s Position

Written by Amanda R. McDaniel, MS, BSN, RN
Amanda is a BSN/RN with a MS in Physiology and a BA in English. She worked as a medical writer in the pharmaceutical industry for 11 years before pursuing a career in nursing. She now works as a nurse on a NeuroTelemetry unit and continues to write and edit on a freelance basis. Amanda’s LinkedIn

Fowler’s position is used when a patient is eating, is having difficulty breathing, or is ordered by a doctor. This position is easily recognized because the patient will be sitting äóìstraight up.äó Semi-Fowlers is sitting äóìhalf-way up,äó and is used when patients cannot be laid flat, but wishes to be in a more relaxed position than Fowler’s. This position is often used for patients who are receiving feedings from a nasogastric tube to prevent aspiration while they sleep.

Achieving Fowler’s Position (aka, High Fowler’s)

  1. Start with the patient lying supine (flat on their back) with the body in proper alignment.
  2. Gently raise the head of the bed to 90 degrees.
  3. Place a small pillow behind the patient’s head and one at the lower back. These are not to make the patient lean forward, but to help support and keep the body aligned.
  4. Place a small pillow under the thighs. Place pillows lengthwise under the calves, but leave the heels unsupported. This helps prevent pressure injury to the heels.
  5. If the patient has difficulty moving their hands or arms, support the hands and arms with pillows.
  6. Ask the patient if they are comfortable. Make adjustments as necessary.
  7. Document the position per institutional or unit policy. Report any difficulty getting the patient into position or maintaining position to the nurse per policy.

Achieving Semi-Fowler’s Position

  1. Start by ensuring the patient has proper body alignment.
  2. Gently adjust the head of the bed to 45 to 60 degrees.
  3. Follow steps three through seven above.


Activity and mobility. (2014). In A. G. Perry, P. A. Potter, and W. R. Ostendorf (Eds), Clinical nursing skills & techniques (8th ed., pp. 210-213). St. Louis, MO: Mosby Elsevier.

More Resources

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Measuring the Apical Pulse

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Orthopneic Position

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Feeding the Patient

Not all patients will need help feeding themselves. Some patients will only need assistance opening cartons or cutting their food. To promote independence, always let the patient do as much as he or she can before assisting. It is vitally important that the nurse’s aide verifies that the patient receives the correct meal tray. Patients may have special diets that play a critical role in their health (i.e., pureed diet, gluten-free diet, food allergies, etc.). Feeding the wrong food to the wrong patient could result in serious complications.

Prone Position

Prone position is not used as commonly as other patient positions. This position allows for full extension of the hips and the knees and gives many bony prominences a break from continuous pressure. However, placing patients in prone position does not come without the risks of pressure ulcers.