While it may seem like a simple task, dispensing medication to patients requires special training. Even mild drugs like aspirin can have devastating effects when given to the wrong patients, which requires someone with the know-how to safely administer medication. Many nursing homes and assisted living facilities employ certified medication aides to distribute medicines to patients and residents. Like other nursing disciplines, women make up the majority of medication aides, nearly 88 percent of all nursing aides, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Education and Training
Medication aide education programs require only a few month’s commitment and take place at community colleges, tech schools and medical centers. Typically, a medication aide training program takes three to six months to complete and includes both classroom and hands-on training. Before starting a training program, most providers require students to have a high school diploma or GED and be currently certified nursing assistants or hold a nursing degree. Some programs also ask that students have some experience in a long-term care facility before taking the course. Training courses cover medication prep, how to deal with side effects and drug safety.
Certification and Licensing
The exact requirements for becoming a medication aide differ from state to state, but most states require certification, licensing or a permit. Medication aide designations come from state agencies, industry associations and colleges and universities. Earning a certification, license or permit generally requires filling out an application, meeting the education qualifications and paying an application fee. Candidates must also take and pass an exam. In Texas, for example, medication aides earn a license by passing an open-book multiple-choice examination and a written essay exam.
As the job title suggests, a certified medication aide’s main job duties include distributing medication to patients under the supervision of a licensed registered nurse. Many nursing home residents take numerous medications each day, and the aide assures that each resident takes the correct medications in the proper amounts. The medication aide may also crush or cut pills as needed, to help the patient take them. Medication aides can give any oral medications, but cannot give injections or IVs. Along with giving medication, the aide takes vital signs, keeps records and monitors for adverse side effects, reporting any problems to the supervising nurse.
Salary and Work Environment
Compensation for certified medication aides varies depending on the area of the country. According to the BLS, the average yearly salary for nursing assistants, under which certified medication aides fall, was just over $24,000 in 2010. In Texas, medication aides earn on average $28,203 a year, with entry-level employees earning $13,500 and those with more experience bringing home over $39,000 a year. Some aides will work a typical 9-to-5 work week, but most work evenings, overnight and weekends, as patients must take medication at all times of the day.
Lindsey Thompson began her writing career in 2001. Her work has been published in the Cincinnati Art Museum's "Member Magazine" and "The Ohio Journalist." You'll also find her work on websites like Airbnb, Chron.com, and USAToday.com. Thompson holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.