Healthcare Career Spotlight: the Certified Medication Aide

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Certified medication aides, also known in some states in the U.S. as assistive medication administration personnel or medication technicians, have a clearly defined role in the allied healthcare field that is definitely worth exploring further. The overriding goal of this piece is to discuss the medication aide, including the day to day duties and responsibilities associated with this role.

Medication aides are helpful members of the allied healthcare team who assist licensed nurses in the realm of medication therapy. The primary function of the medication aide is safe administration of non-injectable over-the-counter and prescription drugs to clients, patients and residents. Medication aides work at the bedside to distribute medications to a large number of clients in a timely manner.

Medication aides are utilized extensively in certain settings, but never found in other types of workplaces. Post-acute healthcare settings such as long term care facilities, personal care group homes, correctional facilities, schools and assisted living facilities utilize medication aides regularly depending on the state. Meanwhile, medication aides are not utilized in the acute care hospital setting.

Most, but not all, states in the U.S. allow medication aides to work. In the states that do allow the use of medication aides, they are permitted to administer oral, topical, transdermal, eye and ear medicines to clients under the supervision of a licensed nurse. In addition, medication aides communicate with clients, report changes in patients’ conditions, obtain vital signs, and document their findings.

Because of pre-existing regulations in most states, the vast majority of medication aides have prior patient care work experience as certified nursing assistants (CNAs) or unlicensed assistive direct care workers. To be admitted into most medication aide training programs, students must be 18 years of age or older with a high school diploma or G.E.D. and submit evidence of work experience as a CNA or direct care worker.

The educational requirements to become a medication aide differ in each state. For instance, the requirements to become a medication aide in Texas entail 140 hours of training. The 140-hour medication aide training programs in Texas are comprised of 100 hours of classroom (didactic) teaching, 30 hours of hands-on return skill demonstrations and 10 hours of clinical externship practicum.

The medication aide training classes consist of a targeted review of a number of relevant topics such as medical terminology, human body systems, effects of medication on each body system, infection control, and drug medication classifications. The goal of the medication aide program curriculum is to bestow pertinent knowledge upon students so they will be able to administer medications safely and prudently.

Individuals who graduate from medication aide programs must also pass a written medication aide examination in the state where they plan to secure employment. The medication aide state test usually contains 100 multiple choice questions on medication therapies. Students who pass the written medication aide state test receive a practice permit or state certification as a certified medication aide.

The state medication aide certification and/or practice permit allows the certified individual to work in a wide variety of healthcare settings for fairly competitive pay. In addition, the working conditions of medication aides are generally not as demanding on the body as those experienced by nursing assistants and direct care workers. For many people, a career as a medication aide is a step up.

How does a career in the healthcare industry sound? A career as a medication aide is an awesome entry point into the healthcare field. Working in the allied healthcare field as a medication aide can serve as a wondrously great foundation to any person’s occupational future. 

Legacy Healthcare Careers will soon be offering a medication aide program in the spring of 2019 at our Fort Worth area campus. Place that phone call to (682)626-5266 or the 24-hour hotline at (682)313-6404 to get more information. This is an opportunity that should not be passed up.

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Medication Aide /Medication Technician Practice Test Questions (Part One)

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Graduates of approved medication aide training programs must take and pass a state test called the Medication Aide Certification Examination, abbreviated as MACE for short, in order to receive a state-issued practice permit as a certified medication aide. In most states, the MACE typically consists of 100 test questions that directly pertain to safe medication therapy.

The best way to prepare for the MACE is to repeatedly answer medication aide practice test questions prior to sitting for the state exam. To prepare for this exam, a student should answer multiple practice test questions on a daily basis because repetition is the key to retaining the knowledge. In addition to answering test questions every single day, students should also review the rationales behind each answer.

QUESTION: What reason(s) should medication aides obey the six rights of medication administration each time medications are administered?

A. Recent changes might have been made on the dosage of the medication

B. Recent changes may have been made on the time the medication is to be given

C. Recent changes may have been made on the route the medication is to be given

D. All of the above

ANSWER: D

RATIONALE: Safe medication therapy involves checking the six rights of medication therapy each time medicines are administered. The six rights of medication administration include the following: 1) right patient 2) right medication 3) right dose 4) right route 5) right time, and 6) right documentation.

Due to the fact that a patient’s medication orders, times, dosages and routes often change at the physician’s discretion, adherence to the six rights of medication administration ensures patient safety in the realm of medication therapy. In addition, doctors often hold or discontinue medications, so the prudent medication aide would review the six rights of medication administration to avoid giving a medicine that the patient is no longer supposed to receive.

QUESTION: During the routine end-of-shift counting of controlled drugs, the medication aide notices that 10 pills of Xanax (Alprazolam) are missing from a prescription pill bottle. No one knows why the pills are missing. Which action should the medication aide take next?

A. Notify the charge nurse

B. Document the 10 pills as having been administered to a patient

C. Notify the administrator of the facility

D. Do nothing at the moment since 10 pills is not a large shortage

ANSWER: A

RATIONALE: The medication aide should notify the charge nurse each time the end-of-shift controlled drug medication count is inaccurate. This is true whether there is a shortage or overage of controlled medication. Controlled drugs are regulated by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Additionally, the charge nurse knows the facility policies and procedures on how to proceed if the controlled medication drug count is not accurate.

It is not usually necessary to notify the facility administrator of issues relating to controlled medications. A medication aide who falsely documents the missing pills as having been given to a patient is engaging in falsification of medical records since the medication administration record (MAR) is an official medical record.

QUESTION: The medication aide is supposed to administer Metoprolol Tartrate (Lopressor) once per day at 8:00 a.m per the doctor’s order. The medication order has parameters to “hold if the pulse is less than 60.” The patient’s pulse is 55 this morning. What action should the medication aide take next?

A. Administer it anyway since a pulse of 55 is close enough to 60

B. Hold the medication and document it

C. Hold the medication, document it and immediately notify the patient’s nurse

D. Hold the medication, document it, and recheck the patient’s pulse to see if it reaches 60 beats per minute later in the morning

ANSWER: C

RATIONALE: It is common for some doctors to include vital sign parameters when ordering cardioactive medications that affect the heart rate and/or blood pressure. If the patient’s heart rate or blood pressure readings are less than the parameters associated with a medication order, the medication aide should hold the medication, document the action, and immediately notify the nurse.

Administering the medication could harm the patient by adversely affecting the heart rate. The prudent medication aide would not simply hold a medication and just document it without notifying the nurse because a low pulse may or may not signify a change in the patient’s usual condition.

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How to Become a Medication Aide, a.k.a Medication Technician

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A medication aide, also known in some states as a medication technician or assistive medication administration personnel (AMAP), is an important member of the healthcare team who has been trained to provide skilled assistance to registered nurses and licensed practical / vocational nurses in the realm of medication therapy.

In essence, medication aides are entrusted with the safe administration of nonparenteral drugs to patients and residents in a wide variety of healthcare settings outside the acute care hospital. Medication aides have received the pharmacological knowledge and practical training to assist licensed nursing staff by administering medications to patients and residents.

The main duty of a medication aide entails the safe, prudent administration of nonparenteral medications to patients. In most states, medication aides are permitted to distribute oral, topical, transdermal, eye and ear medicines to patients under the supervision of licensed nursing staff (LPNs/ LVNs and RNs). Medication aides also communicate with patients and residents, document all medications they have administered, report changes in patients’ conditions to nurses, and obtain vital signs.

Medication aides are typically employed in workplace settings such as nursing homes, extended care facilities, intermediate care facilities, personal care group homes, assisted living facilities, schools and correctional facilities. Due to rules and regulations that exist in most states, virtually all medication aides must have prior patient care experience as certified nursing assistants (CNAs) or unlicensed direct care staff workers.

To be able to enroll in most medication aide training programs across the United States, prospective students will need to be at least 18 years of age by the first day of class. Prospective students must also possess a high school diploma or general education diploma (GED) and provide evidence of current employment as a CNA or unlicensed direct care staff person before the first day of school.

In many states such as Missouri, the medication aide program consists of a minimum of 60 hours of classroom instruction along with 8 hours of clinical practicum training at a nursing facility. On the other hand, the requirements to complete a medication aide program in Texas are much more stringent: 100 hours of classroom instruction, 30 hours of return skills demonstrations and 10 hours of hands-on clinical practicum training.

The medication aide program coursework consists of instruction in a variety of topics such as medical terminology, fundamental review of systems of the human body, medicinal effects on each body system, principles of infection control, and different medication classifications. The overriding point of the medication aide program curriculum is to equip students with enough knowledge to administer medications in the safest manner possible.

Graduates of medication aide programs must also take and pass a written medication aide examination in the state where they intend to work. The medication aide test normally consists of 100 multiple choice questions that assess the test taker’s knowledge of medication therapy. Adequate preparation for the medication aide test is of the utmost importance. After all, who wants to fail this important test and be forced to retake it?

Graduates who pass the written medication aide test will be awarded a practice permit or state certification as a certified medication aide. This certification enables the medication aide to legally secure employment in a variety of healthcare settings for higher wages than those typically earned by CNAs and direct care workers. Moreover, the working conditions of medication aides tend to be less physically grueling than those endured by CNAs and direct care workers.

Legacy Healthcare Careers CNA School is excited to announce the planned opening of a medication aide program to prospective students who live and work in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex of Texas. Please place a telephone call to Legacy Healthcare Careers at (682)626-5266 for additional information. More updates will be provided to the public as the medication aide program progresses further along in its nascent development.

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