How to Perform Tracheal Suctioning

Nurse Via is on her 3rd week of training as a Registered Nurse. Today, she is assigned to assist a staff nurse in cubicle 4 with a patient who has tracheostomy. While Nurse Via reads the chart, the staff nurse approaches the patient and grabs a suction catheter. Hmm, suctioning is about to be performed, but wait. Nurse Via is aware of how to perform suctioning, however, another thought puzzles her. How does one perform suctioning to patients with tracheostomy?

Tracheal suctioning

1. Gather the following equipment and supplies:

Suction machine
Connecting tubing
Disinfected suction catheter
One non-sterile, clean glove
Distilled water
Clean, small paper cup
Clean basin

2. Position the patient comfortably with his or her head and neck well-supported.

3. Wash your hands with soap and water and dry with a clean towel.

4. Fill the small paper cup about half-way with distilled water.

5. Place the clean glove on your dominant hand (if you are right-handed, place the glove on your right hand).

6. If the patient has a cuffed tracheostomy tube, check to see if the cuff is properly inflated.

7. Open the suction catheter package.

8. Pick up the hard plastic end of the catheter with your gloved hand and attach it to the connecting tubing. (Only touch the connecting tubing with your ungloved hand since it is not sterile)

9. Wrap the catheter around your gloved hand when not in use to avoid contamination of the catheter.

10. Turn on the suction machine with your ungloved hand.

11. Expose the patient’s tracheostomy opening.

12. With your finger off the suction vent (so that you are notapplying suction), gently insert the suction catheter into the tracheostomy opening. Slowly advance the catheter a maximum of 6 inches or until you feel resistance.

13. Cover the suction vent with the thumb of your ungloved hand to apply suction.

14. Withdraw the catheter and rotate, using a slow and even motion. Roll the catheter between the thumb and forefinger of your gloved hand. Apply suction as you withdraw the catheter.

15. Do not apply suction for longer than 10 seconds.

16. Clean the catheter and connecting tubing between each suction pass: dip the catheter into the small paper cup, place your finger over the suction vent and draw up small amounts of distilled water through the catheter. Empty the contents of the catheter into the collection basin.

17. Allow the patient 20 to 30 seconds to rest between suction passes.

18. When the patient’s airway is clear and you are finished suctioning, fill a clean basin with distilled water. Thoroughly flush the distilled water through the catheter and connecting tubing.

19. Turn off the suction machine.

20. Slide the catheter back into the package and disconnect it from the connecting tubing.

21. Hang the connecting tubing on the suction machine with the tip pointing up.

22. Rinse the suction catheter and store it with the other equipment to be disinfected.

23. Wash the basin with soap and warm water. Dry it with a clean towel and put it away.

24. Take off your glove and discard it properly, along with the paper cup.

25. Wash your hands with soap and water and dry with a clean towel.



Liane Clores, RN MAN

Currently an Intensive Care Unit nurse, pursuing a degree in Master of Arts in Nursing Major in Nursing Service Administration. Has been a contributor of Student Nurses Quarterly, Vox Populi, The Hillside Echo and the Voice of Nightingale publications. Other experience include: Medical-Surgical, Pediatric, Obstetric, Emergency and Recovery Room Nursing.

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