Medical Assistants Who Administer Therapeutic Medications
First of all, here is an important tip: when it comes to medications they are either administered, or
dispensed, not given! Given is an improper term often used, but in the professional setting the expression
"to give medications" is best removed from the vocabulary.
As a trained healthcare professional you are expected to make a conscious effort to erase the
phrase "I gave medications" from your vocabulary.
You have a choice of two better words: administer or dispense. Administration, or administering medications
means that a medication was placed into a person's body, usually by mouth or injection. Dispensed means you, in
your role as a medical assistant, handed medication over to a person to whom it was prescribed by a licensed
Always check the medication’s actions, side effects, and patient allergies
prior to administering or dispensing a prescribed medication. If you administer or dispense it you may be held
partially or fully responsible even though the physician might have ordered it!!!!!
Always make sure that the bottles are labeled clearly and that you
understand the dose, frequency, and duration of the drug. Also, don't forget to check the expiration date!
Also, ask yourself right now what you would do if you look up a medication and find it is contraindicated for
your patient’s condition!
Medications have a limited shelf live, as indicated by their expiration dates. Medical office staff, including
the medical assistant is responsible for frequently checking these expiration dates and disposing of expired
medications. Expired medications should never be dispensed to patients!
A complete inventory of medications in the office must be done at least every two years to comply with federal
narcotics laws. Careful! Many medication names look and sound
Dealing with Pharmacy Sales Reps
When working in a medical office you will find that numerous different pharmaceutical sales representatives
(also referred to as drug reps) will show up to educate the medical staff on their latest products and drop off
their medication samples. It is good practice to set up a certain time for them to arrive. It is customary that
only one at the time will be allowed in to check the shelves and leave their samples in a designated area. It is
expected that they also take expired samples back to dispose of them properly, if asked. Needless to say, the
pharmacy sales representative is not allowed direct entry to the clinical areas, or access to the medication closet
unless accompanied by one of the medical office staff!!!
Medications must be checked regularly and disposed of properly when they expire. In the past, liquids and
powders were poured down the drain, ointments discarded into the garbage, and capsules and tablets flushed down the
Times have changed! While most drugs can still be disposed of via the regular trash bin
certain precautions must be followed, especially in a medical office. Only certain, safe drugs (few!) should be
flushed down the toilet. Some medical offices drop them into the sharps container (which is questionably practice).
A safe alternative medication disposal avenue is through pharmacy and community-based "take-back" programs.
FDA worked with the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) to develop the first consumer
guidance for proper disposal of prescription drugs. Issued by ONDCP in February 2007, the federal guidelines are
summarized here: http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm101653.htm