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Drug Administration

Drug administration is one of the most important and most dangerous duties for a medical assistant. By following the procedures for proper drug administration, you can help restore patients to health. If you calculate dosages inaccurately, measure drugs incorrectly, or administer drugs improperly, patients' medications may have no therapeutic effect, may worsen their disease or abnormal condition, or may cause them to die.

To administer drugs safely and effectively to all patient groups, including pediatric, pregnant, and elderly patients, you must know and understand the principles of pharmacology as presented in Chapter 50. Chapter 51 pre-pares you to understand the fundamentals of drug administration, including the following:

  • Routes of medication administration
  • Dosage calculations
  • Techniques involved with various types of parenteral injections
  • Seven rights of drug administration
  • Patient education

Because drug administration is a vital and common aspect of your job, you must familiarize yourself with the uses, contraindications, interactions, and adverse effects of common drugs. You should be familiar with the medications frequently prescribed in your practice. Furthermore, to be able to assume a role in patient education, you must be comfortable with all aspects of drug administration so that you can instruct patients about the drugs prescribed to them.

Your responsibility in drug administration is great. Your critical thinking skills are important when performing this function. Self-directed lifelong learning is a key concept in direct patient care and drug administration.


  • Drug Administration and Scope of Practice
  • Dosage Calculations
  • Preparing to Administer a Drug
  • Techniques of Administering Drugs
  • Educating the Patient About Drug Administration
  • Special Considerations
  • Charting Medications
  • Nonpharmacologic Pain Management

Learning Outcomes

After completing Chapter 51, you will be able to:

51.1  Discuss your responsibilities regarding drug administration.
51.2  Perform dosage calculations accurately.
51.3  Describe how to assess the patient before administering any drug.
51.4  Identify the seven rights of drug administration.
51.5  Describe the various techniques of drug administration.
51.6  Compare different types of needles and syringes.
51.7  Explain how to administer an intradermal, subcutaneous, or intramuscular injection.
51.8  Explain what information you need to teach the patient about drug use, interactions, and adverse effects.
51.9  Describe special considerations related to drug administration.
51.10  Describe nonpharmacologic ways to manage pain.


As a medical assistant, you must be prepared to administer drugs safely and effectively. Before you can do so, how-ever, you must be familiar with the metric, apothecaries', and household systems of measurement. You must also be able to convert measures from one system to another and perform calculations to provide a prescribed dose. For these skills, you can use the ratio or fraction method or a formula.

When preparing to administer a drug, assess the patient for contraindications, and observe the general rules and seven rights of drug administration. Depending on the prescription, the drug may be administered by the oral, buccal, sublingual, intradermal, subcutaneous, intramuscular, nasal, topical, transdermal, vaginal, or rectal routes or as eyedrops or eardrops. If directed, assist the physician or nurse with urethral administration and IV drug injection or infusion.

Patient education is an important responsibility related to drug administration. You may need to instruct patients in the proper use of a prescribed drug. In addition, you may have to teach them to prevent or to recognize and report drug interactions and adverse effects.

Some patients require special consideration when receiving drugs. These include pediatric, pregnant, breast-feeding, and elderly patients as well as patients from different cultures. Nonpharmacologic methods for managing chronic pain are gaining acceptance. Patients who are interested in learning about such methods should ask the physician for further information.

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