What Are the 7 Rights of Medication?

Medically Reviewed by Jabeen Begum, MD on October 10, 2022
4 min read

One of the most serious responsibilities that health care providers have is administering medications correctly. There are seven rights of medication administration and three checks to protect patients and health care providers from serious mistakes.

It can be a great burden to try and remember what medicine needs to be given, who needs to take it, and when it needs to be administered, especially if you’re juggling a large number of patients. Staying vigilant about medication administration is of high importance to avoid feeling overwhelmed and to keep your patients safe. What are the seven rights of medications?

First off, make sure that you have the right individual. This might seem obvious, but any exhausted provider or provider managing a handful of patients can make such a simple mistake. No matter how long you’ve been in your field, always take the time to check multiple sources to make sure you’re giving medication to the right person.

You can check the individual’s name on the medication’s label and compare it to any records you have, ask the patient for their name, and have them confirm their date of birth.

Always triple-check that you’re giving the right medication to your patient. Giving the wrong medication is a problem in and of itself, not to mention that it could trigger allergies, cause bad side effects, prompt unnecessary symptoms, and have grave results. After confirming that you have the right individual, read the medication’s label and review the patient’s charts to confirm you’re going to give the correct medication.

Along with giving the right medication comes giving the right dose. Administering the incorrect dose means the person could end up with an overdose, injury, or worse. You’ll be able to find the right dose on the individual’s chart alongside the form that the medication comes in, e.g., liquids to swallow, liquids through IV, or pills to ingest. Depending on the form, the doses will vary.

If something seems off — a change in form, size, color, or dose — compare the dose information with one or two other sources. Even if it delays the administration for a short period of time, you should be completely certain before giving an individual their medicine.

In many cases, medications need to be administered at a certain time depending on other medicine they’re taking, when they eat meals, when they’ve last taken the medication, etc. This isn’t always the case, but you should be careful to take note of which medications are time sensitive and which ones aren’t. Whenever you give an individual medicine, you need to record it so that anyone helping you treat this patient knows when they last took a dose. Consults the medicine’s label and the patient’s chart to confirm when it should be administered.

In this scenario, the word “route” is defined as how and where a patient takes their medication. For example, many medications are taken orally. There should be clear instructions on the individual’s chart or on the medicine itself directing you to give it vaginally, rectally, in the eyes or ears, through the skin, via the lungs, or another route.

Sometimes it's obvious — a nasal spray is meant for the nose, topical medications go directly on the skin, eye drops are for the eyes, and so on. But you shouldn’t get into the habit of assuming. Always triple-check multiple sources to confirm what you think you know!

In addition to confirming every step leading up to the medication’s administration, you need to document what you’ve done afterward. There are likely multiple health care professionals checking in on each individual patient at a time, not to mention shift changes and other disruptions. This is why it’s extremely important to communicate everything you’ve done for your patients on paper or electronically.

You can’t be too detailed — take note of any missed doses, mistakes, side effects, interactions with other medications, and more. Always leave your signature or initials so the report can be traced back to you if questions or concerns arise.

The purpose of giving medication is to elicit a positive response! Record whether or not the medication is doing its job and to what extent so that everyone caring for this individual can be on the same page when it comes to delivering a solution as quickly and efficiently as possible.

In addition to following the seven medication administration rights, there are three checks that you must perform. Read the individual’s chart three times before letting your patient take their medication: before you prepare the medication, while you prepare the medication, and when returning or discarding the container. Additionally, you can follow these tips to create a safer environment for your patients:

  • Never pre-prepare medications, such as pouring enough for the entire day or portioning enough for the morning during the night before.
  • Always wash your hands before preparing medications, and don’t touch them with your bare hands.
  • Store liquid medicines in a refrigerator or a cool, dark cabinet if a refrigerator isn’t available.
  • Don’t rush, take your time.
  • Concentrate and avoid distractions or interruptions if possible.
  • If you think you’ve made an error, notify someone immediately. The sooner you try to fix a mistake, the better the outcome may be.

While the primary goal is to care for the individuals entrusted to you, this advice protects you as well. Any mistakes made on your part could land you in trouble. Adhering to the seven rights and three checks is the best thing you can do for all involved.