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How Can I Become a Medication Aide?

Study what it takes to become a medication aide. Find out more about education, certification, job growth, and wages to decide if this is the right career for you.

What Is a Medication Aide?

Medication aides are nursing assistants or home health aides who specialize in administering medications to people who need help making sure they take the medications they need, such as individuals who are elderly or disabled. Nursing assistants work under the supervision of nurses in hospitals and long-term care facilities, where they may keep track of each patient or resident's daily medications and administer them in the appropriate form. Home health aides provide care for people who live mostly independently at home, but they who might need assistance with daily activities. They can help individuals remember to take their medications, and make sure they take them at the right time and in the right amount.

The following table gives a summary of what you need to know before entering this field.

Degree Required High school diploma or equivalent is typical
Training Required Medication aide certification course required in some states; nursing assistants and health aides may need to complete formal training
Licensure/Certification Medication aide certification required in some states; nursing assistants and health aides may need to be certified
Key Responsibilities Administer prescribed medications under nurse supervision, update patient charts, may assist with hygiene and grooming, may check blood pressure and heart rates
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 9% for nursing assistants; 37% for home health aides
Average Salary (2018)* $29,580 for nursing assistants; $25,330 for home health aides

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education, Training and Certification Do I Need to Become a Medication Aide?

Many medication aide jobs require you to have a high school diploma or equivalent education. The certification and licensing requirements to become a medication aide vary by state. In some cases, you must first be a nurse's aide, personal aide or home care assistant or aide. Other requirements may include completing a state-approved medication aide program and exam, being at least 18 years old and having previous experience.

Many states use the National Council of State Boards of Nursing medication aide certification exam (MACE), which is administered by Pearson VUE. MACE includes questions about duties and medication administration, observation, measurements, concepts and reporting. In these states, medication aide training and clinical skills testing must be coordinated by a registered nurse who has two years of relevant experience.

What Kind of Work Environment Can I Expect?

You may work in long-term care, assisted living, correctional or juvenile detention facilities. If you are a home health aide, you will provide services in people's homes. Your work may be physically and emotionally demanding. You run the risk of being exposed to communicable diseases. In some cases, you will work with people who have behavioral, social or mental health disorders.

What Job Duties Might I Have?

As a medication aide, you give prescribed topically and orally administered medications under a nurse's supervision. You make sure that the six rights of medication administration - correct person, drug, dose, time, route and documentation - are followed. You will chart the medication, dosage, time and date of administration on the patient's record. Refusals to take medications will also be charted.

You may be responsible for picking up or taking delivery of medications from pharmacies. If required, you take blood pressure readings, temperatures and heart or pulse rates. Your job duties may include providing support with hygiene and grooming.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Another medication-related occupation is a job as a pharmacy technician. These workers assist pharmacists with the direct dispensation of prescriptions to patients and healthcare facilities. A high school diploma is the minimum education requirement. You might also consider becoming a medical secretary. In addition to basic clerical duties like phone-answering and appointment-scheduling, medical secretaries may also be involved in taking the patient's basic medical history, including current medications. You need to have a high school diploma or the equivalent to get this job as well.