Whether you’re performing routine suctioning during surgical procedures, suctioning a patient on a ventilator, or performing life-saving procedures to prevent or reduce aspiration, diligent suction canister management is critical to proper patient care. Particularly as concerns about a global flu or coronavirus pandemic mount, your agency must work proactively to reduce the risk of transmitting contagious diseases via equipment such as suction machines. Here are five things you need to know about suction canister management.
Practice Aggressive Cleanliness
Many patients undergoing medical suction already have a heightened risk of transmitting or contracting communicable illnesses. They have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia, diabetes, or congestive heart failure. They may be immunocompromised. So don’t jeopardize this vulnerable patient population by neglecting basic cleanliness and hygiene. These strategies reduce the risks both you and your patients face:
- Wash your hands before touching suction machines or attachments, and then again before touching your face or a patient.
- Wear gloves during all suction procedures, and switch gloves when you switch patients, touch the machine, dispose of medical waste, or use a different attachment.
- Never go to work sick, and if you develop symptoms of illness at work, tell a supervisor. Do not suction or work on patients when ill. Wear a mask if you have a cough or other symptoms of illness.
Know How to Dispose of Waste
In the hospital setting, suction canisters and their contents comprise 25 percent of disposable waste. A key component of suction canister management is knowing how to dispose of the waste they produce. Every agency must establish its own research-supported protocols. Diligently follow these protocols, and ask questions if you encounter an unusual situation. Ensure that any equipment used to dispose of waste never comes into contact with patients, and practice diligent hygiene when disposing of waste. For example, wear gloves when cleaning suction canisters or when managing any and all biohazards, and practice frequent handwashing.
Properly Store the Canister and Attachments
The best suctioning techniques and most diligent hygiene are no match for a suction machine or attachment that you store in an unsafe or unhygienic fashion. A suction machine that is left out in an ambulance near patients may come into contact with numerous pathogens. Similarly, if you store attachments near items you frequently rummage through or alongside non-medical equipment, these attachments may come into contact with many other hands (and many more microbes) before you use them on a patient. Store all equipment in a secure location where sneeze droplets, distracted hands, microbes from sick patients, and other contaminants cannot come into contact with them. When attachments come in secured bags or packages, keep them in these containers until you need to use them.
Clean the Machine Every Time, Without Exception
Every machine has its own cleaning requirements. So familiarize yourself with the equipment your agency uses, then clean the suction canister according to the manufacturer’s instructions each and every time. The following strategies can help you avoid common cleaning mistakes:
- Wear gloves when cleaning equipment. Change your gloves when you transition from cleaning one piece of equipment to another.
- Wash your hands before and after cleaning equipment, and re-clean the equipment if you cough or sneeze while disinfecting it.
- Avoid storing the machine while it’s dirty, with plans to clean it “later.” Later may never come, or another member of your team may use the machine without realizing it is still contaminated.
- Never store used disposable equipment with a clean machine.
Choose the Right Equipment
The right suction device delivers consistent, reliable suction. It is also easy to fully sanitize. A portable suction machine allows you to care for patients wherever you find them, without risking moving them or delaying care. Quality portable suction machines are easy to clean, with no parts that are inaccessible and thus likely to harbor contaminants. That means less risk for both you and your patients. For assistance selecting the right machine, download our free guide, The Ultimate Guide to Purchasing a Portable Emergency Suction Device.