Nursing studies

Training junior students enhanced my leadership skills

Third-year student Tanya Marlow describes how training more junior students to insert nasogastric tubes inspired her to consider a career in clinical education.
Nasogastric tube

Third-year student Tanya Marlow describes how training more junior students to insert nasogastric tubes inspired her to consider a career in clinical education

Almost 800,000 nasogastric tubes are used in the NHS each year. They are regularly used in childrens nursing, particularly on neonatal units and children's wards over the winter during the bronchiolitis season.

For some students, particularly on their first placement, fitting nasogastric tubes can be a daunting prospect as they are not usually covered in taught theory sessions. Nasogastric tube insertion through the nose and into the stomach is a skill that is usually taught by a mentor on a clinical placement using a real child or baby, which can be stressful.

I wanted to arrange a theory session with first-year students during their preparation for a placement workshop about nasogastric feeding and tube insertion. It would cover

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Third-year student Tanya Marlow describes how training more junior students to insert nasogastric tubes inspired her to consider a career in clinical education


Image: iStock

Almost 800,000 nasogastric tubes are used in the NHS each year. They are regularly used in children’s nursing, particularly on neonatal units and children's wards over the winter during the bronchiolitis season.

For some students, particularly on their first placement, fitting nasogastric tubes can be a daunting prospect as they are not usually covered in taught theory sessions. Nasogastric tube insertion through the nose and into the stomach is a skill that is usually taught by a mentor on a clinical placement using a real child or baby, which can be stressful.

I wanted to arrange a theory session with first-year students during their preparation for a placement workshop about nasogastric feeding and tube insertion. It would cover measuring guidelines, aspiration techniques and pH indicator strip testing.

Safety issues

I wanted the students to understand why testing is so important and to have a discussion about the potential consequences of not adhering to guidelines and the patient safety issues this could cause.

The children's nursing lecturers helped me plan my session and provided me with a transparent dummy which had an oesophagus, trachea and movable epiglottis so I could demonstrate measuring and insertion of the tubes. Students could then have a go in a safe, controlled scenario under supervision.

We discussed holding techniques such as swaddling, as holding a child who is moving can be difficult, and also how to obtain an aspirate using a syringe. The importance of obtaining an aspirate before every feed, what to do if an aspirate cannot be obtained and the potential risks of the tube being misplaced were also part of the discussion.

More confident

Feedback from students showed that they found the session informative and felt much more comfortable and confident about the prospect of caring for children requiring nasogastric feeding. It’s satisfying to think that by helping to ensure the next generation of student nurses are correctly trained, patient care and safety will be improved in the future.

I gained valuable teaching experience from organising and planning the session. It enhanced my confidence and leadership skills, as I was able to improve the ability of the first-year students to challenge bad practice and maintain patient safety.

By reflecting on and discussing my experiences on placement with the students and answering their questions, I was able to consolidate my own knowledge, which is important for revalidation, the process nurses must complete to maintain their registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council

In the future, I will use this valuable experience to develop my mentorship skills and it will stand me in good stead if I decide to pursue a career in clinical education.


Tanya Marlow is a third-year children’s nursing student from the University of Central Lancashire in Preston. She was a finalist in the Andrew Parker Student Nurse Award category at the 2017 RCNi Nurse Awards. 

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