Overview of Medication Administration
We take medications
to diagnose, treat, or prevent illness. Drugs are potentially dangerous, even
if they are meant to improve our health. It is important that you take any and
all medications correctly, always following your doctor’s instructions. Always
take all of your medication, and at the amounts and times the instructions say.
If you are
unable to give yourself a required medication, a nurse may help you. This may
happen if you are in a healthcare facility, or if the medication is very
difficult to take by yourself. Medications have different ways they need to be
taken in order to work properly. Not all of these can be done at home or
without special training.
What Is Medication Administration?
need to be safe and effective. Doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and a few
other professionals are trained in how to safely give you medication. Administration
of medications requires understanding how the medication is entering your body.
It also requires knowledge of when the medication needs to be administered, possible
side effects, and toxicity. Training for professionals also includes proper
storage, handling, and disposal of medications.
error due to the wrong drug, the wrong dose, the wrong timing of administration,
or the wrong route of administration accounts for 1.3 million injuries each
year in the United States, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA, 2009).
Route of Medication Administration
can be given many different ways. Some examples include:
- oral route: swallowed by mouth as a
pill, liquid, tablet or lozenge
- rectal route: suppository inserted
into the rectum
- intravenous route: injected into
vein with a syringe or into intravenous (IV) line
- infusion: injected into a vein with
an IV line and slowly dripped in over time
- intramuscular route: injected into
muscle through skin with a syringe
- topical route: applied to skin
- enteric: delivered directly into the
stomach with a G-tube or J-tube
- nasal: sprays or pumps that deliver
drug into the nose
- inhaled: inhaled through a tube or
mask (e.g. lung medications)
- otic: drops into the ear
- ophthalmic: drops, gel or ointment
for the eye
- sublingual: under the tongue
- buccal: held inside the cheek
- transdermal: a patch on the skin
- subcutaneous: injected just under
may not be safe or effective. This can be due to certain health conditions,
dehydration, an inability to swallow, or other factors. Proper preparation must
be taken to prevent complications from the route of administration. For
example, cleaning the skin and using sterile syringes when injecting via the
intravenous or intramuscular routes is important for preventing infection.
Dose and Time of Medication Administration
prescription or instructions state how often and how much of a medication
should be given. Calculating the correct dosage for some medications can be
very precise, and should only be done by professionals. Only that dose stated
in the prescription or instructions should be taken.
it is very tricky to find the right dose of a sensitive medication. For
example, thyroid medications and blood thinners require frequent blood tests to
find if the right dose is being given. Dosage is affected by age, weight,
kidney and liver health, and other health conditions.
also important in medication administration. Some medications need to reach a
consistent level in your bloodstream in order to be effective. This means that
your medications need to be administered at the right times to keep that level
of drug in your system.
your liver or kidneys will remove the medication from your blood. High levels
of the drug can build up in your system and lead to toxicity if you take a dose
too soon. If you miss a dose or wait too long between doses, there may not be
enough drug in your body to work properly. .
abbreviations used in prescriptions include:
- p.o. – by mouth
- p.c. – after meals
- a.c. – before meals
- b.i.d. – twice a day
- t.i.d. – three times a day
- q.i.d. – four times a day
- q.o.d. – every other day
- qAM – in the morning
- q4h – every four hours
- h.s. – at bedtime
- ad lib. –as desired
- prn – as needed
- gtt. – drops
Problems with Medication Administration
administration is not just giving a medication to a patient. It also involves
observation of what happens afterward. Professionals are trained to know how
medications move through the body, what the effect of the medication is, and
what adverse effects may occur.
effects may include overdose of the drug, allergic reactions to the drug, and
drug interactions between multiple drugs. You must tell your healthcare
provider about any other medications you may be taking, or any times you’ve had
an allergy to drugs or foods.
is another risk with certain medications. Over time, you may need to take more
of a medication as your body becomes used to the original dose. Only change the
dose of medication you are taking after speaking with your doctor.