Oral suction saves lives: why skills matter

Knowing how to carry out oral suction on a patient struggling to breathe can undoubtedly save a life.

The machines to help facilitate this become more advanced all the time. Regular updates and reinforcement are necessary to maintain the skills and intuition required to use the equipment correctly.

What is Oral Suctioning?

Oral suctioning or oral suction procedure is a medical procedure to clear mouth and throat blockages using a suction device. It helps patients who can’t swallow properly or are unconscious, keeping their airways open. It is commonly used in healthcare settings, particularly in situations where individuals are unable to effectively clear their airways on their own.

The suction device is typically inserted into the mouth and throat through the lips or nose. The suction pressure is then adjusted to remove the secretions or foreign objects. Oral suctioning is a safe and effective procedure that can help to prevent complications, such as airway obstruction and aspiration pneumonia.

During oral suctioning, a tube is gently inserted into the mouth to remove fluids, mucus, or debris, ensuring a clear airway. Trained healthcare professionals perform this procedure, considering patient comfort and safety. It’s important for preventing respiratory problems and promoting easier breathing in those who can’t clear their own oral secretions.

Why Oral Suction is needed

The increasing numbers of older people in the UK means that there are more vulnerable elderly residents and patients. An inability to clear the secretions that have gathered in their lower or upper respiratory tracts can quickly affect them. This can lead to a range of respiratory problems.

Sometimes, when a patient has an endotracheal or tracheostomy tube, or some other artificial airway, they also need suction assistance. These are believed to add to the production of mucus in some cases too.

There are several reasons why a patient or resident may have an impaired cough reflex, including heavy sedation or a neurological issue. You could come across such a patient or resident during your work.

Assisting children with excess secretions caused by respiratory infections may be necessary for comfortable breathing. This could help prevent complications and promote a faster recovery.

The prevalence of allergies and respiratory problems in the UK is increasing. As a result, health and social care staff often encounter patients who are struggling to clear secretions from their airways.

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The best way to learn suction procedures

The skills and insights involved are clearly focused on using the equipment provided in a correct and timely fashion. This means that suction training with practising medical professionals and some of your own peers is vital.

By discussing and rehearsing the knowledge required, you are more likely to assimilate what you need. This includes developing heightened alertness to the possibility of someone who needs help to maintain or improve their gas exchange.

Assisting patients with removing secretions is a routine task in modern healthcare. However, there seems to be a lack of uniformity in how this is approached. Perhaps due to differing equipment, there is a degree of lack of uniformity in how to proceed.

Having different health and social care organizations using different equipment and techniques is not a problem. This is true as long as the skills and understanding within the staff involved are kept up to date.

This is another reason to take time out of the workplace to attend specialist oral suction training courses. This way, we can inform you about the latest techniques that are at the cutting edge of modern medicine.Β We communicate these tried and trusted methodologies to keep your skills and understanding up to date. These are transferable skills to any location or situation.

What you need to know about suction

Corrected suction is not simply about being able to spot the risk, act quickly and use the right equipment and technique. It also involves awareness of what could go wrong.

As with many other medical procedures that carers provide daily, having knowledge of the potential risks is important too. A well-structured suction training course will focus on minimising the side-effects.

Administering suction incorrectly can cause tracheobronchial trauma. A blunt object such as a suction tube can injure the airway structure that supports the trachea and bronchi.

If you don’t act quickly enough or suction is ineffectual, you risk hypoxia in the patient – starving their tissues of oxygen – or inducing a cardiovascular problem.

You could even inadvertently cause a complete or partial collapse of a lung or the lobe of a lung (atelectasis).

There is also the ever-present danger in health care settings that assisting a patient to breathe easier can introduce bacteria into their throat. This can result in an infection.

5 Common Associated Risks of Oral Suctioning in Healthcare Settings

Oral suctioning, a necessary procedure in healthcare settings, has risks to be aware of. Here are some potential problems:

  1. Tissue Damage: If suction is too strong or done incorrectly, it can harm the mouth and throat, causing bleeding or injury.
  2. Infection: Inserting a tube into the mouth can introduce germs, leading to infections like pneumonia. Using clean equipment and protective gear helps prevent this.
  3. Discomfort: Suctioning can make someone cough, gag, or feel uncomfortable. Close monitoring and comfort measures can help reduce distress.
  4. Low Oxygen: Sometimes, suctioning briefly reduces oxygen flow, especially for those with breathing problems. Monitoring oxygen levels and ensuring proper oxygenation is important.
  5. Breathing Issues: Suctioning may trigger breathing difficulties in people with respiratory conditions like asthma or COPD. Assessing breathing and using medications as needed can help manage this.

Healthcare professionals should know these risks, follow guidelines, and monitor patients closely during oral suctioning to ensure safety. Proper training and precautions help make the procedure effective and secure.

The intuition to act when breathing issues arise

With all the risks in mind, suction training for health care and social care professionals is still primarily about giving the confidence to act quickly in times of need. Hesitation in these situations can literally put lives at risk.

The trainer needs to prepare the trainee for some rapid decision-making within the context of the patient’s history and medical status.

In even the most pressurised situation, proper suction training can make preparing the patient and the equipment a seamless and swift process.

The trainee needs to know which catheter to use for each situation and patient, and how far to insert it to achieve the desired effect.

It is always advisable to use the smallest catheter possible, as well as the lowest possible negative pressure. The whole procedure should be the subject of the quickest timeframe possible too. However, one needs to ensure that all three of these things – catheter size, pressure, and time – are sufficient to clear the secretions.

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Suction training in a nutshell

With all this in mind, what should effective, memorable and up-to-date suction training include?

There needs to be both practical and theoretic support to explore and explain all aspects of the procedure. Respiratory assessment needs to be made through to spotting the indications that suction is needed.

For example, is the patient giving signs of difficulty in breathing, such as changes in their respiratory pattern, nasal flaring, altered consciousness or grunting? Has their skin colour changed, or is their audible or palpable secretions in their airway?

From there, the training needs to focus on suction technique and minimising side effects. This includes keeping the patient and their family (if present) informed of what you are doing and why. It also requires a clear protocol for preparing yourself for the procedure, such as clinical hand washing and using the right gloves and apron.

You also need to position the patient correctly and make a calm, clear decision on the right type and level of oral suction to use.

From there, what would you need to do to follow up on the procedure? When would it be appropriate to use oxygen to reinforce the procedure to clear secretions?

The best suction training would also prepare trainees for the next stage should the patient’s condition deteriorate further. How would you spot the signs that suction is proving insufficient to assist with breathing, and what would you do next? This could include basic life support techniques to use, for example.

To complete the course effectively for modern healthcare requirements, the training should also include how to document the procedure, and report any issues or anomalies.

Click here for more information about Caring for Care training courses in suction, or contact us today using the number at the top of the page (01782 563333).

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