Survey of nurses’ knowledge and practice regarding medication administration using enteral tubes

Harry Tillott, Diane Barrett, Jingjing Ruan, Vincent Li, Susan Merrick, Helen Steed, Hana Morrissey, Patrick Ball

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
25 Downloads (Pure)


Aim and objectives: To identify the practice variation of the individual practitioners in medications’ formulation modification for patients using enteral feeding tubing and to support health practitioners involved in this process.
Background: Blockage of enteral tubes is a common problem that can sometimes be resolved but may require replacement of the tube. Medications are a common culprit.
Design: A survey of 73 registered nurses’ practices around medication administration via enteral feeding tubes.
Methods: A questionnaire study was undertaken within a district general hospital across a broad variety of wards to explore nurses’ experiences of medication administration via enteral tubes. The study is reported in accordance with the squire 2.0 guidelines from the EQUATOR network.
Results: Seventy-three nurses responded. Twenty-six per cent reported never checking about drug modification for administration via a tube, 12% check every time and 61% when unsure about a new drug. The volume of fluid flushes administered after medication ranged from 7.5–150 ml. Seventy-one per cent of participants reported stopping feed when medications are required, varying from 1–60 min. Sixty per cent had experienced a blocked tube and 52% the tube being removed for these reasons. The clinical nurse specialist was the commonest first point of call to help. Staff named 15 medications as the most problematic to administer, lactulose and omeprazole were the top two. Conclusions: Practice varies significantly amongst nurses around medication administration. Theoretically, this may contribute to blocked tubes and excessive fluid administration to some patients. Barriers to medication administration were thematically grouped into: time, difficulty modifying medication, medication interactions and knowledge. Areas identified to support staff include training, devices to crush medications, medication suitability, multidisciplinary approach to streamline care and quick reference guides. Relevance to clinical practice: Health professionals may use these results to reduce and ultimately avoid problems with administering medications through feeding tubes. Organisations may use these results to develop their local practice pathways for prescribing, dispensing and training around administration of medications through enteral tubes. In a community setting, this paper may improve the awareness of patients, caregivers and prescribers of the possible implications of tubing blockages.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4614-4622
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Clinical Nursing
Issue number23-24
Early online date20 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


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