Millions of people across the globe have already been infected with COVID-19. Infection rates show no sign of letting up, which means first responders must learn to live with this. Suctioning can produce aerosols that more efficiently spread the disease. This chronically high rate of exposure may partially explain why medical professionals are so vulnerable, and so likely to die—even if they are young and healthy. Suctioning can also save lives. These strategies can help protect you from COVID without compromising patient care.
Practice Basic Infection Prevention
The right personal protective equipment is non-negotiable during a global pandemic. You must don the right gear every time, without exception. That includes eye protection, a mask (ideally an N95 without a valve), and gloves. You must also wash your hands between patients, before touching equipment, and after each treatment. Because COVID can remain on surfaces for many hours, be diligent about cleaning and never treat a patient on an unclean surface.
Perhaps most importantly, minimize the number of people in the room when treating a patient. A drape or box can further minimize the spread of infection, so ask if your agency has these available for suctioning patients.
Treat All Patients as Potentially COVID-Positive
COVID patients can be contagious even if they have no symptoms. That’s doubly true for children, who may carry a higher viral load even when asymptomatic. You must assume that all patients you treat have COVID and are either presymptomatic or asymptomatic. Even a negative COVID test does not necessarily promise safety because no test can detect the disease with perfect accuracy.
Balance Patient Medical and Mental Health Needs
Suctioning can be scary, especially during an emergency, or when the patient has dementia or is a child. Support people can ease fear, potentially making suctioning less traumatic. However, the more people are present, the more likely the spread of COVID becomes. So find alternative ways to involve loved ones in treatment. Be mindful of how the lack of support can make treatment more traumatic. Be gentle and compassionate, allowing patients frequent calls and other forms of non-physical contact with loved ones. Where possible, try treating patients in front of glass windows or other spaces where they can see loved ones.
Emergency medicine is high stress, high pressure, and high demand. It’s easy to get sucked into the fast pace of treatment and rush through it. COVID thrives on rushing. When you rush, you make mistakes. A single error can spread the virus to you, your patients, to their family, and to the community.
Consider what might happen if you fail to disinfect just one surface after it has been contaminated. You could touch it, spreading the virus to every patient you treat, including the most vulnerable. They may then spread it to other members of your team, and well beyond the walls of your organization. Even when stress is high, even when lives hang in the balance, take a deep breath and move through your mental COVID management checklist.
Properly Store Your Equipment
Proper equipment storage has always been an overlooked aspect of quality emergency care. Intelligent storage makes it easier to access your equipment when you need it, and helps you monitor battery life and organize disposable components in the most accessible way possible.
In the time of COVID, storage is even more important. All of your equipment must remain sealed, away from any potential sources of contamination. Otherwise, the life-saving tools you use become dangerous vectors for disease.
Be Ready for Emergencies
The right suctioning equipment is critical for emergency preparedness. In the wake of the pandemic, you must be prepared to treat patients wherever you find them—whether that’s a parking lot or a busy emergency department waiting room.
Portable emergency suction can help you treat COVID-related emergencies without moving the patient elsewhere, thereby offering faster care and reducing overall COVID exposure. A quality machine saves time, money, and lives. For help finding the right one for your agency, download our free guide, The Ultimate Guide to Purchasing a Portable Emergency Suction Device.