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Having a basic knowledge of how nursing homes procure and administer medications can help you ensure your patients get theirs on time.

Fam Pract Manag. 2024;31(2):19-22

This content conforms to AAFP criteria for CME.

Author disclosures: no relevant financial relationships.

prescription bottle

Sending a patient's medication orders to the nursing facility may seem straightforward. It may even give you a sense of reassurance that the challenges of polypharmacy,1 medication timing, administration, and picking up medications from the pharmacy will no longer be the patient's responsibility, but instead will be handled by health care professionals. Unfortunately, just prescribing the medications to the facility doesn't guarantee the patient will receive them as ordered, on time, and as you intended.

When it comes to procuring and administering medications, nursing facilities (meaning both skilled and long-term care environments for the purposes of this article) have protocols and rules that may not be familiar to physicians who haven't worked in such settings. Here's what family physicians need to know.


  • Nursing facilities have protocols and rules governing how they procure and administer medications that may not be familiar to physicians who don't work in those facilities.

  • Make sure to enter your medication orders before the patient arrives at the facility and send the hospital discharge summary as soon as possible to ensure continuity of care and prevent medication errors.

  • Medication instructions for patients in nursing facilities should be as specific as possible. For example, “once-daily” medications will likely be given at the morning med pass unless you specify the desired time of administration.

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