Here is my question. How could a nurse make such a mistake? Yes, it would be better if the tubing connections were different and regulations requiring this are long overdue. But where are the elements of due diligence and common sense? No doubt the order for the GI tube feeding stated that it was to be given via the stomach tube. Even when diluted, GI tube feedings have the consistency [but not the color] of pea soup. With the exception of blood and a few other special items, intravenous solutions are clear. How could anyone look at a solution containing GI tube feedings and assume it would be OK to infuse it through a vein?
System issues must be addressed but the human element still exists. A 2007 paper from a highly regarded trauma center showed that the leading causes of preventable and possibly preventable trauma deaths were delays in treatment and errors in judgment, which are two factors unlikely to be eliminated by changes in systems.
I think all of this represents a slide toward mediocrity and lack of accountability our country has been on for many years. This is highlighted by another Times story in the 8/22 edition on stupid things people do in our national parks. Among the many sadly believable tales is one recounting a group of hikers summoning a rescue helicopter on two occasions [at $3400.00 per flight funded by us, the taxpayers] because first, they were low on water and second, the water in the park “tasted salty.” Regarding the problem of hikers becoming lost, spokesman for one of the parks is quoted, “We have seen people who have solely relied on GPS technology but were not using common sense or maps and compasses, and it leads them astray.”
Go ahead and make all the system changes you can think of. I guarantee you that after the GI feeding tubing connections are finally mandated to be incompatible with IV tubing, someone will still find a way to mistakenly deliver food meant for the stomach into a vein.