This morning, you glanced at your calendar and realized the quarterly meeting with your paramedic lieutenants was quickly approaching. As an EMS manager, you know these meetings provide a great opportunity for feedback from the field: which treatment strategies are working, and which ones are not; what common problems their personnel encounter on scenes; and if there are any equipment issues that must be addressed.
And one of the most fundamental pieces of equipment that your personnel depend on in an emergency is their portable suction unit. So, let’s take a moment to review a few bits of advice you might want to pass on to the lieutenants charged with overseeing their stations’ EMS supplies.
It is basic logic that field personnel will use tools that are easily accommodated in their EMS bags. So, when it comes to the portable suction units that you as a manager choose for your rigs, make sure the unit fits the task. Here are a few considerations:
- How will the portable suction unit be carried? If you prefer stand-alone units that are easy to carry by themselves, size becomes less of an issue. If you want a smaller, more portable unit that can slip easily into the airway bag, there are some truly compact units available.
- Long versus short transport times: If your personnel have extended transport times to the hospital, or they cover areas of open terrain, you will want a portable suction unit that has great battery life or offers alternative power sources.
- Function and reliability: The most important choice you will make concerning portable suction units is to choose ones that are efficient, powerful, and easy to use.
Maintenance Is Key
Whichever style of suction unit you choose for your personnel, be sure to reinforce the importance of good maintenance. Incorporate maintenance of the unit into their weekly truck checkoff sheets. Here are the primary issues to be addressed:
- Turn on and test the unit at the start of each shift.
- Test the batteries (per manufacturer) and replace when needed.
- Ensure the unit is clean, both inside and out.
- Have a variety of suction catheters on hand to suit the situation.
The most important advice you can give your field personnel concerning their portable suction units is to ALWAYS have them on hand. Encourage your professionals to incorporate the units into their ALS assemblage so that whenever they grab the drug box, monitor, and airway bag, the suction unit comes along, too. Effective suction has been proven to improve patient outcomes by preventing aspiration pneumonia, reducing hypoxic events, and keeping airways patent, so be sure your personnel are doing everything they can for their patients, through the regular use of oral and nasal suctioning.