Game Changer: Wallace State Medication Assistant program filling need in nursing facilities, advancement for staff

Feb 1, 2021
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HANCEVILLE, Ala. — “It’s a game-changer,” said Kristen Munger, Assistant Director of Nursing at Hanceville Nursing and Rehab of how utilizing Medication Assistants will benefit the workflow at their facility.

Medication Assistant Certified (MAC) is the new job title for six of their employees who went through the first session taught through Wallace State Community College’s Center for Career and Workforce Development. All were Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) before taking the course to advance in both job title and pay scale.

Their six were among about 20 who took the first session, with at least that many signed up for the next session starting Feb. 8. Registration will continue through Feb. 7 or until it meets the maximum of 24 students. Classes will continue through March 5, followed by clinical rotations from March 8-21.

As CNAs, their primary duties included assisting patients with daily living activities, such as bathing, grooming, feeding, etc. With MAC certifications, those duties are expanded to administering approved drugs through prescribed measured amounts in liquid or tablet form, as well as other medications given as inhalants or other routes.

“We expect it to be very beneficial by providing our nurses more time to spend on skilled nursing activities,” Munger said.

“When the MACs give routine medications allowed by the Alabama Board of Nursing (ABN), this will significantly reduce the nurse’s workload allowing her to assess, monitor, communicate and spend extra time with the residents as well as giving the non-routine medications,” said Dr. Brenda Pruitt, Coordinator/Instructor for the Wallace State program.

“With everything going on with pandemic, the need for nurses to have that extra help is so important,” said Jamie Blackmon, director of Wallace State’s Center for Career and Workforce Development. “When CNAs get this extra certification where they can distribute medications, it alleviates some things that nurses have to do, and helps CNAs get a raise.”

The curriculum was developed with input from Deborah “Pepper” Hoover, the chair of the Wallace State Department of Nursing Education, and Pruitt is a former Wallace State Nursing instructor. This 100-hour course is approved by the Alabama Board of Nursing and follows the Alabama Community College guidelines. Graduates will apply to the ABN for the opportunity to sit for the national certification exam which will give those individuals a nationally recognized credential.

“Emphasis is placed on the development of knowledge, attitudes and skills required of the medication assistant enabling them to successfully perform allowable duties as determined by the Alabama Board of Nursing,” Dr. Pruitt said. Sixteen of the students from the last first session successfully passed their certification exams.

“Wallace State is happy to partner with healthcare facilities to facilitate excellent nursing care in a time of nursing shortages,” Hoover said. “Nurses will have a new resource with MAC employees to enable more individual time with residents/patients.”

“We have received positive feedback from students, clinical instructors, facility directors, and administrators,” Dr. Pruitt added. “We worked closely with each individual student to promote success. The clinical instructors worked hard to continue developing the students’ medication administration skills, monitoring of residents before and after medications, and the legalities of medication administration as outlined by ABN.”

Sixteen students from the first session have earned their MAC certification, with five left to take their exam, Pruitt said.

Ashley Emmert, a new MAC at Hanceville Nursing and Rehab, has passed the certification exam required by the ABN, received a raise and will begin training under supervision of the nursing staff at the facility this week. She said she’s ready to fulfill her new role thanks to her time at Wallace State.

“I’m kind of nervous to start doing new things, but I feel good that I know what I’m doing,” she said.

She expressed her appreciation to her employers for the opportunity and encouraged others to consider getting their certification.

“It may seem intimidating, but it’s something that’s actually achievable,” she said, adding it’s sparked an interest in going to nursing school. “I had thoughts about going before, but until I did this, I didn’t know if I would.”

Other than having a current AHA or ARC Healthcare Provider CPR Certification, there are no other prerequisite certifications required to enroll in the MAC program. The program does require proof of health insurance, immunizations, a physical exam and background check.

The fee for the course is $900 and includes all course materials, drug screening and malpractice insurances. Additional fees and expenses may apply.

Phlebotomy and Certified Nursing Assistant courses are also available through the Center for Career and Workforce Development. Call 256.352.8386 or email for more information or visit

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