Medication administration via enteral tubes: a survey of nurses' practices

J Adv Nurs. 2011 Dec;67(12):2586-92. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2011.05688.x. Epub 2011 May 19.


Aim: This article is a report of a study examining the practices of acute care nurses when administering medication via enteral tubes.

Background: Administering medication via enteral tubes is predominantly a nursing responsibility across countries. It is important to establish what nurses actually do when giving enteral medication to inform policy and continuing education development.

Method: In 2007, a survey was conducted using a random sample of acute care nurses at two large metropolitan hospitals in Melbourne, Australia. There were 181 Registered Nurses who participated in the study; 92 (50.8%) practised in intensive care units, 52 (28.7%) in surgical areas, 30 (16.6%) in medical areas and 7 (3.9%) were from combined medical-surgical areas. The questionnaire was developed by the researchers and a pilot study was conducted in August 2006 to test reliability, face validity and user-friendliness of the tool.

Results: Nurses reported using a range of methods to verify enteral tube position prior to administering enteral medication; some were unreliable methods. A majority reported administering enteric-coated and slow or extended release forms of medication, and giving solid forms of medication when liquid form was available. Nearly all (96%) reported flushing a tube after giving medication, 28% before, and 12% always flushed between each medication.

Conclusion: Enteral medication administration practices are inconsistent. Some nurses are using unsafe practices and may therefore compromise patient care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Auscultation / statistics & numerical data
  • Australia
  • Clinical Competence
  • Clinical Nursing Research
  • Critical Care
  • Data Collection
  • Dosage Forms
  • Drug Administration Routes
  • Enteral Nutrition / nursing*
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen-Ion Concentration
  • Intubation, Gastrointestinal / instrumentation
  • Intubation, Gastrointestinal / methods
  • Intubation, Gastrointestinal / nursing*
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / administration & dosage*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Practice Patterns, Nurses' / statistics & numerical data*


  • Dosage Forms
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations