What Are the Different Types of Medication Cart?

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  • Written By: A.M. Boyle
  • Edited By: PJP Schroeder
  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2019
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Medication carts are similar in design in that they are typically square or rectangular units with swivel caster wheels and compartments to house medication. Variations can be found in overall size, weight, and color of the units. The number and type of drawers and compartments a medication cart contains can also be different, depending upon the particular model. The units are generally constructed of steel, wood, polymer, or a combination of all three materials. A range of side accessories that attach to the cart are also available to suit any specific needs.

The purpose of a medication cart is to make it easier for nurses and other heath care professionals to dispense an assortment of medication to bedridden patients. The specific needs of different hospitals and other institutions inevitably vary, and consequently, medication carts come in different sizes with diverse features to suit those requirements. The type of drawer space differentiates certain styles of medication carts as either bin carts, box carts, or punch-card carts.


Most medication carts can be anywhere from 27 to 48 inches (approximately 69 to 122 cm) long and 40 to 45 inches (about 102 to 114 cm) tall. Generally, the units are about 20 to 25 inches (approximately 51 to 63 cm) wide. The size differences among the carts allow for different styles and types of drawers. One type of medication cart, called a box cart has a series of long, narrow drawers divided inside into various sections, or boxes, that hold medication. Another type of medication cart, termed a bin cart, has rows of smaller, checkerboard-type compartments rather than drawers.

Certain types of carts called punch-card carts have a series of large, wide drawers in addition to medication bins. These larger drawers are designed to hold paperwork and patient files to make it easier for health care providers to keep track of the patients’ medications. Many medication carts have a combination of box, bin, and punch-card features. Regardless of the particular style, most carts contain compartments that lock, either by key or electronically, in which narcotic medications are kept in order to reduce the incidence of theft.

Typically, the frame of a medication cart is constructed of steel or a steel alloy. To keep the cart from being too heavy, the drawers and compartments are usually made of aluminum, although some units do use a hard polymer. Some institutions desire medication carts that are more decorative in nature, and therefore, units with eye-appealing wood finishes are available. These particular carts can either be made entirely of wood or will have steel frames finished with wood laminate.

Specific accessories are available for medication carts that will affect their functionality. For instance, side accessories can be added to provide pull-out writing surfaces, areas to keep clipboards, or poles to hang intravenous fluids. Companies that make and sell medication carts often offer purchasers the option to customize the carts to suit their specific needs.

Technologically advanced medication carts are also available. This cart, sometimes called a smart cart, comes fully equipped with a wireless computer, monitor, keyboard, and scanning device. The onboard computer allows caregivers to keep track of their patients and the medications administered electronically, eliminating the need to carry bulky files or charts while reducing the possibility of paperwork error.


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