Background Ventilator-associated pneumonia, a common complication of mechanical ventilation, could be reduced if health care workers implemented evidence-based practices that decrease the risk for this complication.

Objectives To determine current practice and differences in practices between registered nurses and respiratory therapists in managing patients receiving mechanical ventilation.

Methods A descriptive comparative design was used. A convenience sample of 41 registered nurses and 25 respiratory therapists who manage critical care patients treated with mechanical ventilation at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, La Mesa, California, completed a survey on suctioning techniques and airway management practices. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyze the data.

Results Significant differences existed between nurses and respiratory therapists for hyperoxygenation before suctioning (P =.03). In the 2 groups, nurses used the ventilator for hyper-oxygenation more often, and respiratory therapists used a bag-valve device more often (P =.03). Respiratory therapists instilled saline (P <.001) and rinsed the closed system with saline after suctioning (P =.003) more often than nurses did. Nurses suctioned oral secretions (P <.001) and the nose of orally intubated patients (P =.01), brushed patients’ teeth with a toothbrush (P<.001), and used oral swabs to clean the mouth (P <.001) more frequently than respiratory therapists did.

Conclusion Nurses and respiratory therapists differed significantly in the management of patients receiving mechanical ventilation. To reduce the risk of ventilator-associated pneumonia, both nurses and respiratory therapists must be consistent in using best practices when managing patients treated with mechanical ventilation.

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