Suction is crucial when a patient has limited responsiveness and is unable to clear their airway on their own. It is important to act quickly to decrease the likelihood of secretions from entering the lungs causing aspiration.

  1. Immediately roll the patient onto their side (recovery position), use gravity to your advantage.
  2. Turn on the suction device.
  3. Insert suction tip into mouth, only as deep as you can see.
  4. Begin suctioning by placing your finger over the hole in the side of the suction tip.
  5. Back the catheter out of the mouth.
  6. Avoid aggressive or prolonged suctioning – this can stimulate the Vagus Nerve at the back of the throat which can drop heart rate to dangerous levels.
  7. Each event of suctioning should not last more than 10 seconds.
  8. Continue to suction until the airway is clear.
Photo of portable suction unit with suction tubing and attached tonsil tip catheter.
Equipment images by Jamie Kennel and Carmen Curtz, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.
Suctioning Skill Verification Table 






5 (instructor)


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Oregon EMS Psychomotor Skills Lab Manual Copyright © 2023 by Chris Hamper, BS, NRP; Carmen Curtz, Paramedic, BS; Holly A. Edwins, Paramedic, B.S.; and Jamie Kennel, PhD, MAS, NRP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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