Topic 14: Giving Medications and Understanding Different Forms


In the world of medication administration, understanding the different methods and their respective precautions is crucial for the safety and well-being of clients. As a support worker, it is essential to be knowledgeable about these methods to ensure effective and safe medication handling.

Understanding Different Medication Forms

  • Oral Medication: These are drugs taken by mouth. This category includes tablets, capsules, or liquids. Oral medications are among the most common and preferred due to their ease of administration and patient comfort.
  • Topical Medication: These drugs are applied directly to the skin or a specific part of the body. They are used for localized treatment, reducing systemic side effects.
  • Injectable Medication: This form involves drugs delivered through a needle directly into the body, such as intramuscular or intravenous injections. They are used for quicker absorption and effect.

Administering Different Medication Types

  1. Oral Medications:
    • Ensure the correct dosage.
    • Help the client to take the medication with an appropriate liquid, if necessary.
    • Monitor for any difficulty in swallowing.
  2. Topical Medications:
    • Apply the medication to clean and dry skin.
    • Use gloves or applicators to prevent contamination.
    • Follow the directions regarding the amount and frequency of application.
  3. Injectable Medications:
    • Verify the medication and dosage.
    • Use aseptic techniques to avoid infections.
    • Be trained in the proper technique for the type of injection (e.g., intramuscular, subcutaneous).


  • Document in the progress notes the name of staff who administered medications and in the night report for each shift.
  • New staff must observe medication administration with a senior staff member for a minimum of 5 shifts, then they may administer under supervision for 5 additional shifts.
  • The manager or supervisor will then review with new staff members.
  • All wasted, unused and expired medications must be given to the supervisor or designate and kept in a secure, locked cupboard/device. They are then sent to the pharmacy for disposal.

Giving Medications

You need to initial for each medication you give.

In the example below, you have checked the medications and have given Sertaline 100 mg, Synthroid 125 mcg, and Chlorpromazine 100 mg 2 tabs in the morning. It’s the first day of the month.

You would sign as below.

You then also give Chlorpromazine 100 mg, 2 tabs at noon.

Later day you give Chlorpromazine at the right times (1600 and 2000) and sign for them. It’s now 2130 and the client is feeling anxious. The supervisor/designate decides it is ok to offer a PRN. The client accepts the medication.

You would sign as indicated below.

As an alternate to the scenario above, you take the medication to the client, but they decide they don’t want it anymore.

You would sign as indicated below.

Medication Changes

If a doctor has made a change to the medication a client receives, the following will occur:

  • Supervisor or designate sends the prescription to the pharmacy for filling unless the physician did it electronically.
  • Supervisor or designate discusses with the pharmacy if the current medication packages need to be returned for changes to be made.
  • Supervisor or designate confirms with the pharmacy that an updated medication label sticker is available or a new MAR is provided.

If a sticker is provided:

Take the medication sticker and place it on the MAR in the next space available.

If you are not provided with a medical label sticker or an updated MAR:

  • Print the name of the medication in the next space available.
  • Include the dose, time(s) and start date to be given

In the example below, the yellow highlighting signifies the time periods where the new medication is NOT to be given. The drawn arrow indicates the date that the new medication is to start.

Short-Term medications:

An antibiotic is an example of a short-term medication. You will need to box in with pen the dates the drug is to be given and highlight the periods where the medication is NOT to be given.

Discontinued medications:

  • When a medication has been discontinued, on the MAR, draw a diagonal line in pen, through the medication and write “disc” (short for discontinued).
  • Highlight the rest of the month to indicate the medication is no longer available.

The example below illustrates how this would appear on a MAR.

Q&A on Medication Administration Methods

  • Q: When might a medication be prescribed as an injectable rather than oral?
    A: Injectable medications are often used when a rapid response is required, or the medication can’t be taken orally due to issues like gastrointestinal absorption, the patient’s inability to swallow, or the nature of the medication.
  • Q: How should topical medications be applied?
    A: Apply topical medications on clean and dry skin, and follow the prescribed directions for application. Use gloves or applicators to prevent direct contact and contamination.

Scenario-Based Situational Example

Situation: Mr. Thompson is on multiple medications, including an insulin injection. He expresses a desire to switch to oral medication for diabetes.

Response: First, acknowledge Mr. Thompson’s preference, which is an important part of patient-centered care. Explain that insulin injections play a specific role in managing blood sugar levels that oral medications may not fulfill, especially in certain types of diabetes. Emphasize that while oral diabetes medications are effective for some individuals, insulin injections are crucial for others to maintain optimal blood sugar control. Encourage Mr. Thompson to discuss his concerns with his healthcare provider, as they are best positioned to explain the reasons behind his treatment plan and explore possible alternatives if appropriate.


As a support worker, having a thorough understanding of the different methods of medication administration is vital. Each method – oral, topical, and injectable – has its specific procedures and precautions. Knowing these will help you to ensure the safety and well-being of your clients while effectively assisting in their treatment plans.