Medication aides working in Tennessee assisted living communities, skilled nursing facilities and Programs for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly will be able to administer controlled substances as of Jan. 1. The provision and others related to the work and training of medication aides, or medication technicians, was part of S.B. 2383, an update of a 2009 law, which was signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam on April 28.

Operators no longer will be prohibited from reducing the size of their licensed nursing staffs if they use medication aides, but the aides must be supervised by a registered nurse or a practical nurse, and they will not be allowed to administer drugs when a dosage decision or calculation is required. Also, any assisted living community, nursing home or PACE that uses medication aides must track and record medication errors and incidents of opioid or benzodiazepine diversion and make these records available to the Department of Health.

The new law also makes changes related to the training of medication aides, cutting required classroom hours for approved programs from 50 to 40 and reducing required clinical hours from 25 to 20. Training now can be performed by “qualified entities” or a combination of such entities, rather than “qualified educational institutions,” after approval from the board of nursing. And the nursing board will determine curriculum standards, erasing the standards that were part of the former law.

“Although the program has been in place for six years, no medication aide certificates have been issued, because no training programs have been established,” Tennessee ALFA said on its website. The new law will foster broader availability of training programs, the organization said. TN ALFA, Argentum’s Tennessee chapter, worked with a coalition of other provider associations to help pass the legislation, Argentum said.

S.B. 2383 also removes a former requirement that the supervised clinical practice component of a training program take place in an assisted living community or nursing home. Also, the licensed nurse supervising the medication aide student no longer will be required to periodically inform the faculty member responsible for the student of the student’s progress in the supervised clinical practice.