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


  • Nicole Margaret Phillips,

    1. Nicole Margaret Phillips PhD MNS RN, Senior Lecturer in Nursing, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Deputy Director, The Deakin Centre for Quality and Risk Management in Health: A Joanna Briggs Collaborating Centre, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Faculty of Health, Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria, Australia
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  • Ruth Endacott

    1. Ruth Endacott PhD MA RN, Professor of Clinical Nursing, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria, Australia, and, Faculty of Health, University of Plymouth, UK
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Dr N.M. Phillips: e-mail:


phillips n.m. & endacott r. (2011) Medication administration via enteral tubes: a survey of nurses’ practices. Journal of Advanced Nursing67(12), 2586–2592.


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.