Oral Medication Administration

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Oral medication administration


Oral medication administration is the process by which drugs are delivered by mouth through the alimentary tract.


Drugs are taken by this route because of convenience, absorption of the drug, ease of use, and cost containment. It is, therefore, the most common method used.


Other routes are used when a person cannot take anything by mouth, or the drug is poorly absorbed by the gastrointestinal tract. The nurse should check whether the patient has any known allergies . It is useful to remember the following checks when administering any medication: the right patient, the right medicine, the right route, the right dose, the right site, and the right time.


Oral drugs are can be prescribed to be taken at different intervals, either before or after food. They can be in either liquid or solid form. Questions about the frequency with which drugs should be taken should be addressed to the primary health care provider.


Wash the hands. The patient's order sheet should be checked to ensure that the dose has not already been given. Once that is confirmed, the correct drug and dose should be selected. The appropriate number of pills should be shaken onto the lid of their container and dropped into a small measuring cup to hand to the patient. This should be done immediately prior to giving the drug and not done in advance.

If the medication is liquid, the bottle should be shaken, the cap removed, and the bottle held at eye level with the label turned upwards, to prevent staining. The correct dose should be poured into a measuring cup.

The patient should be informed that his or her doctor has prescribed some medicine for him or her. The nurse should check the drug and dose against the patient's prescription chart again, then confirm the patient's name on his or her wristband. The drug can then be handed to the patient, who should also be offered a drink of water to aid in swallowing pills.

Liquid medicines containing iron should be taken through a straw to minimize staining of the teeth.

After ensuring that the drug has been taken, the nurse should record the time and the dose that has been given.


The nurse should monitor the patient's reaction and provide reassurance, if required.


Possible complications include:

  • The drug may interact with other drugs the patient is taking and alter the desired effect.
  • The patient may refuse the drug.
  • There may be difficulty in swallowing.
  • The drug may irritate the gastrointestinal tract.
  • The drug may pass quickly through the body, and the benefits of the drug may be lost.


Alimentary —Relating to the system of nutrition.

Alimentary tract —The alimentary tract and the other organs involved in digestion and absorption.

Gastro —Referring to the stomach.

Gastrointestinal tract —The stomach and intestinal tracts involved in digestion and the elimination of waste products.

Intestinal —Referring to the intestine.


Administration of oral medication should result in the patient receiving the proper dose of drug safely, and with no complications. Oral drugs can also interact with other medications that the patient is taking, such as injections. The nurse should check for any adverse reactions if the drug is being administered for the first time.

Health care team roles

The staff should establish whether a patient is taking any drugs prior to being given any additional medication. It is important that a nurse understand the actions, side effects, and incompatibility of drugs, recognize normal doses, and be knowledgeable about any reactions that a patient may experience. The nurse should report any unusual effects to the medical staff and record any side effects or negative reactions to the drug that has been given.

If the medication is to be prescribed regularly for a specific disease, the patient can be directed to a self-help group in which members have the same medical condition. The patient should be helped to feel confident that his or her privacy is ensured.

If the labels on liquid medicine bottles are stained and illegible, the medicine should not be used.



Denville, N.J. The Self Help Source Book. American Self Help Clearinghouse, 1998.


American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. AANP, PO Box 12846, Austin, Texas, 78711. (512) 442-4262. [email protected]

American Nurses Association, 600 Maryland Avenue, SW, Suite 100 West, Washington, DC 20024. (202) 651-7000.

National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists, 3969 Green Street, Harrisburg, PA, 17110. (717) 234-6799. [email protected]

National League for Nursing, 61 Broadway, 33rd Floor, New York, NY 10006. (212) 363-5555 or (800) 669-1656.


"How to Administer Medications." <http://nursing.about.com>.

Margaret A. Stockley, RGN