Blind insertion of feeding tubes remains unsafe. Electromagnetic placement devices such as the CORTRAK Enteral Access System allow operators to interpret placement of feeding tubes in real time. However, pneumothoraces have been reported and inadequate user expertise is a concern.


To explore factors influencing competency of CORTRAK-assisted feeding tube insertion.


A prospective, observational pilot study was conducted. Data collection included demographics, self-confidence, clinical judgment regarding CORTRAK-assisted feeding tube insertion, and general self-efficacy. CORTRAK-assisted feeding tube insertions were performed with the Anatomical Box and CORMAN task trainers.


Twenty nurses who had inserted a mean of 53 CORTRAK feeding tubes participated. Participants inserted a mean of 2 CORTRAK feeding tubes weekly; each had inserted a feeding tube in the past 7 days. All superusers were competent; 1 required remediation for improper receiver unit placement. Mean (SD) scores were 35 (3.68) on a 40-point scale for self-efficacy, 4.6 (0.68) on a 5-point scale for self-reported feeding tube insertion confidence, and 4.85 (0.49) on a 5-point scale for demonstrated confidence. Participants estimated that 8 CORTRAK-assisted insertions were needed before they felt competent as super users. Confidence with the CORTRAK tracing was estimated to require 10 feeding tube insertions. Six participants continued to assess placement by auscultation, suggesting low confidence in their interpretation of the tracing.


At least 3 observations should be performed to assess initial competency; the number should be individualized to the operator. Interpretation of the insertion tracing is complex and requires multiple performance opportunities to gain competency and confidence for this high-risk skill.

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