Establishing A Suction Procedure: Three Things to ConsiderThe field of EMS is governed by procedures. Because you work in a fast-paced, high-intensity arena, you don’t have time to contemplate each step in an emergency. Much of your response must be instinctual, based on training, education, and practice. Which is why the use of your portable suction unit should be incorporated into the preparation, response, and post-response phase of respiratory distress emergencies. Here are some considerations when establishing suction procedures:


1. Preparation

To be ready for respiratory emergencies, you must have the proper equipment, which includes a proficient portable suction unit and the assurance that it is functional. This process should begin at the start of each shift:

  • Check out your portable suction unit as you come on duty.
  • Batteries must be fully charged.
  • Suction must be operating properly, so turn the unit on and test the controls.
  • Be sure to have plenty of appropriate-sized suction catheters on hand.
  • Ensure the unit is clean and ready to go.

2. On Scene

Your suction unit is no good to you if you leave it behind on the truck. Here are a few reminders:

  • Position your portable suction unit next to the airway bag so that you can grab both on scene.
  • Always consider airway compromise in addition to your patient’s chief complaint. This is especially true of:
    • Trauma
    • Stroke
    • Pediatrics

  • Assign someone to the portable suction unit, just as you do the airway in a code situation, so that he or she knows it is his or her responsibility for the treatment duration of each patient.

3. Post-Scene

Clean your suction unit thoroughly after each use. This includes:

  • Replacing the canister and tubing
  • Disinfecting the unit, internally and externally (don’t forget the control knobs!)
  • Replacing used equipment, such as suction catheters

Adopting proficient suction procedures is important to the successful treatment of airway emergencies. So, ensure that your unit is prepared, utilized, and always ready for the next call.