A medication aide, also referred to as a medical technician, distributes patient medications in nursing homes, schools, correctional facilities or non-hospital assisted-living facilities. Medication aides usually are directly supervised by doctors or other licensed caretakers. Aides typically assist patients in properly taking oral, topical or intravenous medications in correct dosages and must to strict medical protocol. These professionals also supervise patients to ensure that they do not have any adverse reactions after taking their medications and must keep comprehensive records of all medications that have administered to each patient. In many places, a person must pass a certification exam and be licensed by the government to work as a medication aide.
The primary knowledge and skill that a medication aide must have involves the proper administering of medication. He or she must know how to administer it through many types of methods, such as orally, topically and intravenously. Other methods include rectally, vaginally or transdermally, which is through the skin, such as via a patch or lotion. Aides also must know how to administer drops of medicine into patients' eyes, ears and noses. Less common methods include administering medication through inhalers, nebulizers or tubes that have been inserted into the patient's nose, mouth or stomach.
In some places — by law — or in some facilities, aides are not permitted to administer all types of medicine themselves. Some methods might require a licensed nurse or doctor to do it. In those cases, a medication aide might assist the nurse or doctor. The aide also might be responsible for distributing medications, such as pills, to patients who can take them themselves.
Monitoring Vital Signs
An aide typically will also measure patients’ vital signs, such as blood pressure, temperature and breathing and heart rates, throughout the day. If a patient's vital signs are outside of the normal range, the aide does not treat the patient but instead will inform the facility's nurses or doctors on duty. A medication aide keeps detailed medical records on patients and must note any allergies or other reactions in the patients' files. Medication aides also need to know how to recognize and assess the signs of emergency situations in order to quickly respond and contact doctors.
Knowledge of the classifications and side effects of drugs is one of the main requirements of medication aides. They need to know how to differentiate dangerous sedatives and narcotics from more basic daily medications. They also need to know the dangers of combining certain drugs. A medication aide might deal with many potentially addictive substances, so he or she is usually required to take inventory of drugs at the beginning and end of his or her shift to prevent theft or overdose.
Training and Certification
Formal training in medicine and an extensive postgraduate education are not required for a career as a medication aide. The criteria for medication aides differs depending on the location but, generally, a person must be 18 years old and possess a high school diploma or its equivalent. He or she generally must take introductory courses in anatomy, microbiology, pharmacology and physiology at a trade school and complete a certification exam. Aides who work in long-term nursing care facilities often have additional training as nursing assistants.
A medication aide career is often treated as a stepping stone to a more advanced nursing career. Aides who are employed at healthcare facilities that have many patients who require constant care might be given basic nursing duties to gain experience. This helps ensure that the nurses have more time to devote to more advanced medical duties, such as working directly with doctors, monitoring medical machines and performing minor medical tests.