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 Two)

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NOTE: This post is the second one in a series that contains medication aide practice test questions similar to the ones a test taker will most likely see on the state Medication Aide Competency Examination, or MACE for short. Answers to the practice test questions are supplied, as well as rationales. Click here to read Part One.

QUESTION: When administering oral medications to a nursing home resident who needs assistance, where should the medication aide ensure the pills, caplets or capsules are placed?

A. Onto the center of the tongue

B. Anywhere in the mouth is okay

C. Under the tongue

D. Between the inner cheek and the teeth

ANSWER: A

RATIONALE: Oral medications such as pills, capsules and caplets are to be placed on the middle of the tongue to promote greater ease with swallowing. Sublingual medications are the only type of oral drug that should be placed under the tongue. Pills and capsules that are placed between the inner cheek and teeth of a client might dissolve without ever being swallowed by the resident.

QUESTION: The medication aide is permitted to crush a client’s oral medications (e.g., pills and caplets) and mix with puddling, applesauce or jelly only if the following condition is met:

A. If the client requests the medications be crushed

B. If the medication administration record (MAR) indicates that the medications may be crushed

C. If the facility administrator requests the medications be crushed

D. If the client’s family member requests the medications be crushed

ANSWERB

RATIONALE: A medication aide should not crush or break pills, caplets or tablets or pills, or open and empty powder out of capsules, unless a pre-existing order on the client’s medication administration record indicates that the medications may be crushed. Some types of tablets, pills and capsules will not work as directed or may actually be harmful to the client if they have been crushed or opened prior to administration.

Many medications are in extended release form. This means they the medication is released in the client’s body patient over an extended period of time, typically several hours. If the client takes an extended release medication after it is crushed, this means the medicine will be released all at one time in the body. This might lead to the medication harming the client, similar to taking too much of a dose at once.

In addition, an extended release medication might be rendered less effective than the prescriber originally intended since it is no longer medicating the client during an extended period of time. For example, the anti-diabetic medication Metformin XR (Glucophage XR) is an extended release form of Metformin that is not to be crushed because it is intended to provide control over a client’s blood glucose levels over many hours.

Also, many drugs are coated to permit them to pass through the upper gastrointestinal tract undissolved with minimal side effects so they will be released in the small intestine instead of the stomach. Crushing a coated pill or caplet may result in unwanted side effects since the protective coating has now been crushed.

QUESTION: How would a medication aide determine that a medication should be given transdermally?

A. Ask a coworker

B. Find out from the client

C. Follow the directions on the MAR

D. Ask the manager

ANSWER: C

RATIONALE: The medication aide should always follow the directions printed on the medication administration record (MAR). The MAR contains the essential components of each medication order. These components include the medication’s name, current dose, frequency to administer the drug, route of administration, and original date the drug had been ordered by the healthcare provider.

Since the MAR contains the proper route of administration, a prudent medication aide would follow the directions on the client’s MAR to determine whether the drug should be administered in transdermal form.

 

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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