Certified medication aides administer daily pharmaceutics to patients under the supervision of a registered nurse (RN). Medication aides are required to study the different classifications of drugs as well as their side effects. They also need to know the dangers of combining certain medications and what to do in case of an overdose.
Certified medication aides dispense oral, inhalation and topical medications to patients. They observe patients for drug reactions and report any problems to the nurses. Medication aides monitor the patient’s vital signs, calculate medication dosages and stock the medication cart. Certified medication aides also record what medications were given for the day and the dosage in the nurse’s medication administration record (MAR) chart.
Medication aide training requires enrollment in a one-year certificate program either through a community college, junior college or trade school. Some schools require that applicants possess a certified nursing assistant (CNA) license, over 1,000 hours of work experience as a nursing assistant and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification. Throughout their coursework, students will study such areas as human anatomy, medical terminology and basic pharmacology through classroom and laboratory instruction. Toward the end of the program, students are required to complete an externship at a local nursing home.
Once training is complete, graduates are required to obtain their medication aide certification through the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Graduates are required to take the certification exam within three months after training. Individuals who do not take the exam within three months or pass the exam will have to retrain. After passing the exam, medication aides are required to complete 10 continuing education units (CEU) and renew their certification every two years.
Certified medication aides may be employed in nursing homes, inpatient rehabilitation centers, adult day care centers, hospices, hospitals, schools, childcare facilities and correction facilities. Some medication aides even choose to work for a traveling nurse company in which they visit a patient’s home to administer medications.
Medication aides advance their careers by going back to school to obtain a two-year associate’s degree or a four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing. Students study such areas as pathology, microbiology, advanced pharmacology and advanced patient care techniques. After training, graduates can sit for their RN licensure.
As of May 2010, certified medication aides, with one to four years of experience, saw a median salary range of $15,118 to $28,730 with a median hourly rate of $9.68 to $12.25.