medical_suction.pngAs an emergency medical services responder, you know how important it is to maintain good health. The stress of EMS, the long hours, and the erratic nature of the job can lead to hypertension and anxiety, lack of sleep, and missed meals (or worse yet, high consumption of fast foods). Just as you should be vigilant about your personal health, you should also maintain the health of your equipment. An unhealthy body is easily taxed; so too is your equipment if it’s not kept in good working order. And one of the most crucial pieces of equipment is your portable medical suction unit.


You may not think about your portable suction unit on a regular basis. Months can pass between uses, but it’s critical that it’s in good working order when you need it, for nothing can take its place. If your suction unit is dead, so too are your options for clearing blood, mucous, and tissue from the patient’s airway. A healthy portable suction unit is vital for airway management and good patient care.


Let’s look at some of the ways to keep your portable suction unit healthy and functioning at optimal efficiency:


A Power Check

You may have one of the most modern, efficient suction units at your disposal, but it won’t do you any good if you don’t keep it charged.


Here are some quick reminders:

  • If your unit is rechargeable, keep it plugged in while not in use (follow user’s manual)
  • Test your unit at the beginning of each shift
  • Test your unit any time it’s been in use, especially on long calls
  • Examine your batteries on a regular basis to ensure they are not leaking or corroded
  • Keep extra replacement batteries on hand


Keep It Clean!

The nature of emergency calls predisposes responders to a vast assortment of hazards. Vehicular crashes, armed and angry patients, and exposure to toxic environments are just a few of the threats that are part-and-parcel to EMS.


And then there are the bugs.


Pathogens come in all shapes and sizes, and can be found on every surface paramedics come in contact with. That includes your rigs, your patients, and your equipment. And because the use of a suction unit goes hand in hand with bodily fluids, it can be one of the most hazardous tools in your toolkit.


Keep your portable medical suction device clean by following these simple guidelines:

  • Be sure to sanitize after every use, even when fluids are not visible within the unit
  • Never reuse disposable parts, including the canister, tubing, and suction catheters
  • Use a mixture of bleach and water to sanitize your unit or follow manufacturer’s recommendations
  • Never submerge your suction unit

Protect Yourself

Keep in mind that any time you use your portable suction unit, that unit is now a biohazard so protect yourself whenever you handle it. That includes when removing it from the scene, collecting its used parts, and during disinfecting.


Always remember to:

  • Wear personal protective equipment when handling, to include
    • Gloves
    • Eye Protection
    • Mask
    • Gown (for the really messy cases)
  • Don’t forget to disinfect ALL surfaces of the unit, especially control knobs and handles
  • Remove the unit from its power source before cleaning
  • Dispose of all contaminated parts properly


The best rule of thumb is to treat your EMS equipment as you do your body: keep it clean, protected, and healthy and it will function properly for years to come.