4 Misconceptions About Portable Suction Machine Maintenance

As an emergency responder, you know how critical maintaining your equipment is. If someone were to ask you to honestly evaluate your maintenance habits, how do you think you would rate? We all like to think that we are responsible, ready professionals, but we can always improve our habits. And when it comes to portable suction machine maintenance, there is no room for error.

So, in an effort to hone our maintenance skills, here are four misconceptions to avoid concerning your portable suction machine.


1. It's Someone Else's Responsibility

It's easy to assume someone else will maintain your portable suction unit. When you check out your truck each shift, you may choose to assume the prior shift’s workers probably checked the suction unit. But what if they didn't? And what if it's been awhile since the unit was actually used?


Only YOU can insure YOUR equipment is ready, so never assume it has already been done. The same goes for bringing the unit on scene: Never assume that someone else will grab it. If you think you'll need suction, make sure you or your crew member have the portable unit in hand. Preplanning is a great way of designating the carrier.


It is also your responsibility to determine when new units are needed, so keep administration informed and utilize consensus among your department. Some considerations for portable suction machine replacement include:

  • Not enough units for an expanding service
  • Units are old and outdated
  • Batteries are not holding their charge
  • New technological innovations

Everything you need to know to help your institution make the right portable  suction purchase >


2. It Doesn't Need to be Cleaned

Any time the unit is used on a patient, even when it appears nothing has made it to the canister, assume the unit is dirty and MUST be disinfected. Suction units are notorious breeding grounds for pathogens. Just placing the catheter in the patient’s mouth can invite contamination, and the many tight confines within the unit (tubing, canister, catheter) provide plenty of opportunity for germs to proliferate.


ALWAYS disinfect the unit, using approved cleaning solutions or bleach and water. The last thing you want is to expose yourself or your patient to harmful pathogens, so keep your portable suction machine from serving as a vector.


3. It Will Always Turn On

No, it won't! Assuming the batteries are charged is as careless as assuming the unit is clean. To check your portable suction machine, you must TURN ON your portable suction machine! Many shifts can pass before you use your suction machine, so be sure to check it at the start of each shift to ensure the batteries are fresh and fully charged. There's nothing worse than suction unit failure, so don't get caught with dead batteries.

4. We Won't Need It

This is a common, dreadful mistake. Assuming you won't need the portable suction machine is like assuming you won't need an extra pair of gloves. If you're wrong, you're in quite a bind.


Patients requiring suction need it immediately. This is no time to be running back to the unit for equipment. Just about any medical emergency can result in the need for suction, so incorporate your portable unit into your first-in bag or with your oxygen equipment. It's always better to have and not need than to need and not have, so bring it along on every call and you'll never get caught.


Good maintenance habits are a fundamental aspect of successful patient care, and when it comes to your portable suction machine, there is no room for error. So, don't fall into the trap of these common misconceptions. Be responsible, proficient, and ready, and you'll always be prepared.