Topic 6: Proper Storage and Handling

Topic 6: Proper Storage and Handling of Medications

In your role as a support worker, understanding the correct storage and handling of medications is a key aspect of ensuring their efficacy and safety. Different medications have specific storage requirements, and it’s vital to adhere to these to maintain the integrity of the drugs you’re administering. Let’s explore the essential elements of proper medication storage and handling.

Understanding Medication Storage

  • Refrigeration: Some medications need to be stored at cool temperatures, typically between 2°C and 8°C, to preserve their effectiveness. This is often the case with certain antibiotics, insulin, and some biologic medications.
  • Room Temperature: Most medications are stored at room temperature, away from direct sunlight and moisture. Always check the storage instructions on the medication’s label.
  • Special Conditions: Certain medications might have unique storage requirements, such as protection from light or moisture. Always read and follow the specific guidelines.

(Pharmacy Association of Saskatchewan, Proper Medication Storage, 2023)

Importance of Adherence to Expiry Dates

The expiry date on medication is a critical factor to consider. Using medication past its expiry date can be ineffective and potentially harmful.

  • Checking Expiry Dates: Regularly review the expiry dates of all medications you handle. This is essential for ensuring that you’re administering effective and safe treatments.
  • Disposing of Expired Medications: Never use expired medications. Follow local guidelines for safe disposal, which often involves returning them to a pharmacy or using designated medication disposal services.

(Pharmacy Association of Saskatchewan, Proper Medication Storage, 2023)

Prescription Labels: Your Guide to Safe Administration

The prescription label on medication packaging is an invaluable source of information. It contains essential details about the drug, dosage, and patient information.

  • Reading Prescription Labels: Familiarize yourself with the format of prescription labels. They typically include the patient’s name, the medication name, dosage instructions, and the prescribing doctor’s name.
  • Importance of Adhering to the Label: Always administer medications exactly as prescribed, following the dosage and timing instructions on the label.

(Pharmacy Association of Saskatchewan, Proper Medication Storage, 2023)

Medication Check-In and Distribution Form

Above is an example of a medication check-in and distribution sheet, provided by Saskatchewan Health Authority – your area may have a similar document. The manager, supervisor, or designate fills in the type of medication received or can put an “X” in the box confirming the medication that was received matches the medication listed on the MAR discussed in Topic 5.

If there are discrepancies when the manager, supervisor or designate is checking medication, they will discuss he discrepancies with the corresponding pharmacy.

If you identify an error, bring it forward to your supervisor. If the supervisor is unavailable, please discuss with your appropriate manager. The manager will contact the pharmacy or Health Line at 8-1-1 (if the pharmacy is closed).


Pharmacy Association of Saskatchewan (2023), Proper Medication Storage retrieved from

Real-World Application: Case Scenario Involving Mrs. Parker

Imagine you’re organizing Mrs. Parker’s medications and notice an antibiotic that should have been refrigerated left outside. Here’s how to handle the situation:

  1. Assess the Situation: Determine how long the medication has been stored improperly. This will help in deciding the next steps.
  2. Consult the Healthcare Provider: If the medication has been out of refrigeration beyond the recommended time, it might not be safe or effective. Immediately inform Mrs. Parker’s healthcare provider.
  3. Educate and Update: Explain to Mrs. Parker the importance of proper storage and the potential implications of the oversight. If the medication needs replacement, ensure this is done promptly.
  4. Documentation: Document the incident and the actions taken. This is important for record-keeping and future reference.


Proper storage and handling of medications are pivotal in your role as a support worker. By understanding the specifics of different types of medication storage, adhering to expiry dates, and accurately interpreting prescription labels, you can ensure the safety and well-being of those under your care. Remember, when in doubt, consult a pharmacist or a healthcare provider for guidance.