As a medical professional, you know the critical role suctioning plays in airway management. Whether you are a medic on a rescue, a flight nurse on a helicopter, or part of an emergency room staff, you’ve seen how effective suctioning can be for a patient in respiratory distress.
Nothing can take the place of effective suctioning. How else are you going to remove vomit, sputum, or blood from the airway? How are you going to visualize the cords without first clearing the path? Let’s face it: There’s no replacement for suction.
It falls on you to ensure your suction machine is ready. But sometimes things are overlooked. The crew you are relieving had a grueling night of calls. The ER staff has worked three back-to-back codes. There are many reasons for slip-ups to occur. Ours is a demanding field, set at a demanding pace. So, here are three ways to avoid serious issues affecting your portable suction unit:
1. The Need for Power
A suction unit can’t run on dead batteries. It’s up to you to ensure the batteries are fresh at the start of each shift or after each use. The main benefit of a portable suction unit is its portability. But that portability means it must rely on its own power source, so make sure that power source is up to the task. And replace old batteries as needed.
2. Maintenance Is Key
To maximize the benefits of your suction unit, you must maintain it. That means not only ensuring it has power, but that it is clean and well-stocked. Because secretions of any type pose serious infectious risks, the unit must be thoroughly decontaminated after each use. That means following the manufacturer’s guidelines for cleansing and ensuring all disposable parts are replaced.
Be sure the unit is fully stocked at all times. Extra catheters, in an array of sizes, are essential for meeting the needs of each respiratory emergency, so be sure you replace as needed. And use the right size for the job. A small tip will not meet the demands of clotted blood or vomit, so have larger catheters on hand for these situations.
3. Suction with Care
Not every airway is the same, so be careful when applying suction, especially in the case of elderly patients or the very young. Geriatrics typically will have fragile tissues and extensive dental hardware, so suction with care and precision. The same can be said of pediatrics. Their smaller mouths and noses require the same care and precision you apply to geriatrics, so use a smaller catheter and a suction unit that has variable pressure controls.
Nothing can replace effective suctioning, so be sure to follow these recommendations to avoid any serious complications.