4 Ways COVID-19 Has Changed Airway Management

In a matter of weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic transformed from a hypothetical concern to something that upended lives across the globe. First responders were suddenly risking their lives to tend to patients. Families across the nation holed up in their houses, hoping to save lives. The world may never be the same. Unsurprisingly, airway management has shifted quite a bit in the intervening months, too. Here are some of the changes we’re seeing. 


A Massive Increase in Demand 

Airway management has historically been an emergent need for people with critical and chronic illnesses. Thanks to COVID, millions of people across the globe who were otherwise healthy have needed airway support, sometimes on an ongoing basis. The airway management industry is growing rapidly, and supply can barely keep up with demand. 


For providers, this has meant that the most skilled practitioners are in high demand. Some doctors are traveling across the nation to the hospitals that need them most, while paramedics and other first responders may move to different organizations or geographic locations based on local need.


Providers with exceptional airway management skills can expect high employability for the foreseeable future. Everyone else in the industry will need additional training and support to ensure patients get the airway management that can save their lives. 


Concerns About Airway Management Safety 

Thousands of medical providers have contracted COVID, and death rates are higher for people who work directly with COVID patients. Every medical provider has known for years that airway management can transmit infections, and that improper hygiene increases everyone’s exposure. 


But it’s easy to be too casual about these risks when you’re only worried about a cold. COVID-19 highlights how vulnerable we all are, and shows how important infection-prevention protocols are. 


Even after the pandemic fades, it is likely that most organizations will continue encouraging handwashing, mask-wearing, and other infection-prevention strategies. It should have been this way all along, particularly for providers who work with children, geriatrics, and other highly vulnerable populations. 


Less Emotional Support for Critically Ill Patients 

One of the great tragedies of COVID-19 is that so many patients have had to undergo treatment alone. Families have had to say goodbye to the most critically ill patients via video chat—a trauma that no one will soon forget. Even if your patient is not at risk of dying, the experience of airway management can be stressful and scary. 


Having loved ones nearby, especially in crowded areas or when a person seeks comfort from multiple loved ones, greatly increases the risk of transmitting the virus. So organizations across the country are trading emotional support for safety. 


This leaves first responders to fill in the gaps. Many are having to act as social workers and support personnel, reassuring anxious patients, working with noncompliant elders who have dementia, and easing the fears of people who are afraid they might die. This strains institutional resources and individual coping tools. It also leaves many patients without the quality support they need. 


An Emphasis on Emergency, Portable Support 

Many hospitals have scrambled to provide adequate care, building makeshift tents and quarantine units to slow the spread of the pandemic. In these difficult moments, traditional wall-mounted suction is not enough. 


Providers must be prepared to treat patients wherever they find them. Being able to do so reduces the risk of spreading the virus by moving a patient through a crowded waiting room. It also prevents treatment delays. Quality portable emergency suction can save lives. 


Now is the time to ensure your institution is prepared for this pandemic—and the next one. To learn more about the right portable emergency suction for your needs, download our free e-book, The Ultimate Guide to Purchasing a Portable Emergency Suction Device.