Pouring pills from a bottle

Step-by-Step Guide to Administering Medications

Learn the procedures, steps, risks, and requirements for administering medications.

Pouring pills from a bottle

Medication Administration may seem like one of the most basic tasks for healthcare professionals. However, this common procedure is extremely important, as medication must be properly distributed to help patients heal, alleviate pain, and minimize adverse side effects. An incorrect dosage has the potential to be catastrophic for the patient’s well-being.

Mastering the skill of medication administration will lead to a much better experience for healthcare practitioners and their patients. It can be very beneficial for Medical Assistants to learn the proper method of administering medication.

This article provides an in-depth guide on the art and science of administering medications, one of the most important healthcare procedures for medical staff.

(Click here to see our full list of common Medical Assisting duties and responsibilities).

Medication Administration Definition

What Does it Mean to Administer Medications?

Medication administration occurs when medical professionals give their patients the medication they’re prescribed. It’s recommended that they do so in a quiet area, give the task their complete attention, and never leave medications unattended.

What is the Purpose of Administering Medication?

Essentially, administering medication provides patients with a substance prescribed and meant for the treatment, diagnosis, or prevention of an illness or condition.

How Long Does it Take to Administer Medication?

Because medications must be administered within 30 minutes of the time that’s written on the medication log, this means that you can give a patient their medication 30 minutes before or after the medication is due.

It will likely only take you a few minutes to administer medication per patient.

Who Can Administer Medication?

Medications are typically administered by a variety of different healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, certified medication technicians, or other medical staff. In addition, some Medical Assistants may also administer medication under specific circumstances.

Medical Assistants can administer medication orally, sublingually, topically, vaginally, rectally, or by intramuscular, subcutaneous, and intradermal injection (note: injections require additional training). In every case, a physician must first verify the medication and dosage before authorizing the administration. Additionally, the physician must be physically present in the facility when the medication is administered.

(Click here to learn how to become a Medical Assistant).

Students completing admissions process

Training Requirements to Administer Medication

Medication administration requirements may vary and can depend on your location and profession. However, medication training is essential for professionals who work in the healthcare field. This type of training will often cover the administration, prescribing, managing, and handling of medicines in a safe manner.

Keep in mind that most programs for your desired profession, such as Medical Assisting, will likely include training for medication administration. At Unitek College, we offer a Medical Assisting program that could give you a strong advantage when it comes to relevant knowledge of pharmacology.

Medical Assistants who have completed the required training may administer medication through intradermal, subcutaneous, or intramuscular injections. They may also perform skin tests and other technical supportive services upon the authorization/supervision of a physician, surgeon, podiatrist, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, or nurse midwife.

Medication Administration Procedure

With these steps, you can start to learn more about the process of medication administration. Just like any other skill, administering medication requires a little time and practice to get it right. Don’t hesitate to ask for help.

Medication Administration Steps

Here are some of the general guidelines that qualified professionals with proper training should follow when administering medication:

  1. Wash your hands and gather the necessary supplies.
  2. Remove the patient’s medication from the storage area.
  3. Check the label on the bottle or card and pick the medication to be administered.
  4. Compare the medication administration record with the label to make sure they correlate.
  5. Identify the patient and explain what you’re going to do.
  6. Observe the patient to see if there is anything that needs to be reported to the doctor before administering the medication.
  7. Do not touch the medication with your hands.
  8. Follow the specific instructions listed for each type of medication to be given.
  9. Throw away used disposable supplies.
  10. Place the patient’s medications back in the medication storage area and secure them.
  11. Wash your hands.
  12. Chart the medication you administered on the medication administration record.

Person holding a mug and packet of pills


After the procedure, the patient can resume their normal activities. There isn’t a recovery period for the majority of patients who receive medications. However, some healthcare professionals may briefly observe them to see if there are signs or symptoms of adverse effects.

Necessary Equipment to Administer Medication

Usually, the suggested supplies for medication administration include the following items:

  • Calibrated medicine cups
  • Disposable medicine cups
  • Tray
  • Medications
  • Medicated pads or patches
  • Application papers
  • Tape
  • DA Form 3949
  • The patient’s clinical record

Potential Risks or Complications of Administering Medication

Some side effects of common medications may include an upset stomach, dry mouth, or drowsiness. This is why certain medications are better taken with or without food.

Pro Tips for Medication Administration

Here are some pro tips that may assist you in the future.

  • Remember the three safety checks – Use the medical order to double-check the person’s name, the strength of the dosage, and the frequency.
  • Sing the five rules song – If you sing this tune, it might help reduce medication errors and potential harm. So, say the five rights with us: the correct patient, drug, dose, route, and time.
  • It’s all in the planning – Plan medication administration to minimize disruptions. It’s also beneficial to prepare medications for ONE patient at a time. Also, ensure the medication hasn’t expired, perform proper hand hygiene, etc.
  • Update as often as you can – As we know, a shift for any healthcare professional can get very, very busy. To help keep up with any updates from doctors, try a process called Medication Reconciliation. This means you put together a complete list of medications for each patient and religiously update the list when a transition of care happens or changes occur in the medication chart.
  • Report, report, report This may sound obvious, but always report any errors. In fact, you need to notify ALL the members of the medical team that are in charge of the patient’s care (not to mention the hospital or institution’s safety committee).

Why Should Medical Assistants Learn How to Administer Medication?

It can be very beneficial for some Medical Assistants to learn about pharmacology. This is because MAs with this knowledge can better assist their healthcare team, increase their opportunities, and potentially advance their careers. They will also have more chances to assist others and help alleviate their pain.

While administering medication isn’t a job requirement in every doctor’s office, it is a valuable skill that could lead to greater opportunities. Therefore, it would be advantageous for MAs or aspiring Medical Assistants to seek the proper training and gain knowledge of pharmacology. Under the right circumstances, an MA would likely become more indispensable to their employer and enrich their career by assisting with medication administration.

Medical Assistant assisting a patient

Start Your Career in Medical Assisting

Medication administration is truly a crucial skill that aspiring Medical Assistants should consider learning for their careers. It’s also an essential practice for several diagnoses and important procedures.

Think about it: Medication must be properly distributed to help patients heal, alleviate pain, and minimize adverse side effects. An incorrect dosage has the potential to be catastrophic.

If you’re feeling inspired and would like to pursue a career in medicine, Unitek College offers various healthcare programs, such as our Medical Assisting program.

Contact us today to learn more about our programs and tuition assistance options. Take the first step toward a rewarding future in healthcare!