What Does a Medication Technician Do?

Susan Abe

A medication technician, also known as a "med tech" or medication aide, is a certified nursing assistant (CNA) who dispenses prescribed medications to patients according to doctors' written orders. In addition to her CNA certification, a med tech must complete additional training, a written examination, and a clinical examination, as well as hold a current state licensure. Most medication technician positions are held in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities where patients' medication regimens are usually stable and infrequently changed. Nonetheless, not all US state boards of nursing allow medication administration to fall within a nursing assistant's scope of practice. In states where they are allowed to practice, med techs dispense oral capsules, pills, elixirs and perhaps subcutaneous insulin to patients; assist them in taking the medication; and assess for any side effects or drug reactions.

A medication technician dispenses prescribed medications to patients.
A medication technician dispenses prescribed medications to patients.

Many nursing home residents take multiple medications for a variety of conditions. A medication technician prepares residents' medications and assists them in taking it comfortably and safely. The size and sheer number of pills and capsules — combined with an elderly resident's potential difficulty in swallowing — can make this process a lengthy one. While some residents can take their pills with water, others require the pill or pills to be swallowed with a small spoonful of applesauce. Other residents' swallowing limitations require that the med tech crush their medications to be mixed with applesauce or pudding.

A medication aide dispenses prescriptions according to doctor orders.
A medication aide dispenses prescriptions according to doctor orders.

A medication technician must be familiar with the residents' recent vital signs and blood glucose levels, as well as the different contraindications — or restrictions to administration — of common medications. Digitalis, for example, should not be administered to any patient with a pulse rate of less than 60 beats per minute. Antihypertensives, or high blood pressure medications, should not be administered to patients with a low blood pressure. A hypoglycemic or low blood sugar emergency can occur if oral diabetes medication or subcutaneous insulin is administered to a diabetic resident with already low blood glucose levels. These examples are a small sample of the necessary precautions to be followed with each drug and each patient.

Medication technicians must be aware of any possible drug contraindications.
Medication technicians must be aware of any possible drug contraindications.

Evaluation of possible drug side effects or allergic reactions is also a medication technician's responsibility. Rashes, itching or reddening of the face and neck should be suspected as allergic reactions if these conditions follow the start of a new medication. Many drugs have dizziness or impaired balance as reported side effects. These are particularly important for a medication technician to look for in elderly residents already at risk for falls and bone fractures.

A medication technician may monitor elderly patients to ensure that they are taking their medication properly.
A medication technician may monitor elderly patients to ensure that they are taking their medication properly.
A medication technician may be employed by a nursing home or other long term care facility.
A medication technician may be employed by a nursing home or other long term care facility.

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Discussion Comments

Raynbow

@ocelot60- A person who wants to work in clients' homes may also find that becoming a medication technician is a career path they should pursue. Many families want to keep older loved ones in their homes, yet they often need help administering medications. Medication technicians often get hired to do this job along with other independent living tasks. It is a very rewarding field for anyone who enjoys providing care.

Ocelot60

A position as a medication technician is a great option for people who want to work with patients but do not want to become registered nurses. Since the medical field is growing and more people are in need of care now than ever, this is a field that offers a lot of promise when it comes to available positions and job security without years of necessary training.

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