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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

How to Pass Pharmacology

Pharmacology is a tough class guys. Basically, it's like memorizing a dictionary. I have mad props for those pharmacists. This post is about how to study and prepare for your pharmacology tests so you can succeed in that course.

If you want to read a post I have on strategies for taking tests click HERE.

Pharm is important to us nurses because:

  • We will be administering medications to patients
  • We will be teaching patients about their new medications
  • We are the last in line that can either catch a medical error-- or make a medical error
It is important that we know the boundaries of when it is safe to administer a medication and when it is not. For instance many cardiac drugs need to be held when a patient is bradycardic (less than 60 beats per min). We need to decide which PRN pain medication to give the patient. Is it an intense, sharp pain that he/she's experiencing? Then we need to give the medication that's ordered as a push. Is it a 3/10 constant dull ache? Then we need to give the pain medication ordered by mouth that's extended release. 

As nurses we are CONSTANTLY thinking. 

So now that we can agree that pharmacology is important. How the heck are we going to dominate this class?

Tips to Study Pharmacology

  1. As I will say many, many, many times; PRINT YOUR SLIDES. If your teacher has been so nice to create them (even if they're ripped off from the textbook manufacturer) they are great skeletons to take hand-written notes on. I am a big fan of writing things out by hand. However, writing notes down in class often made it difficult to listen to everything that the teacher said. I was too busy trying to recall what she had just said that I missed the next five sentences. So my next tip...
  2. RECORD your class. Thankfully, my school had this amazing program that they used (Tegrity) to record all lectures. It was then uploaded to the class website or could be downloaded on an app on my phone. It was incredible. Now, most schools probably won't have such a thing. I do highly recommend recording your lectures. Buy a recording device, sit near the teacher, and record. DISCLAIMER: it is courteous to ask your professor if you can record him/her. So before you step on anyone's toes, or get in trouble for breaking a goofy rule-- ask.
  3. LISTEN to your recorded lecture. This should've been implied by the previous bullet point, but I felt compelled to give it it's own spot. Listen to the lectures again on your commute home, while you're doing chores. Heck, I've even been known to listen to lectures while running. I think it's great to listen to them as often as you can stand but the way you will get the most use out of them is if you listen to them as if you were in the classroom again. Get yourself a nice beverage. Get your slides/notes. Press play and take down all the notes on the sentences that you missed out on during class. This saved my life, guys. Really.
  4. OPEN YOUR BOOK. I mean it. Open it. There's words. I'm pretty shy and hate to ask questions in class. (It's a bad habit. Don't be like me.) So I don't understand most of the things discussed in class. I certainly didn't understand them when I first started nursing school. I'm not saying to actually read every chapter a teacher assigns to you. God no. We don't live in a world with that much time to spare. It would be nice, but we don't. So refer to your book as you replay your lecture and look at your notes. If you have a question, press pause, and look it up.
  5. MAKE CHARTS. Sometimes my teachers would have charts made up, sometimes the books had charts, and sometimes I got lucky and could find some on the internet. (Fingers crossed; I plan on making some charts for you guys. But give me time.) In these charts you want to have both names of the drugs. You want to have a column that discusses what the drug is used for. You need a column that says mechanism of action. You'll want to put down side/adverse effects. Definitely you need to know the nursing implications. I guarantee you that the majority of your questions you'll be able to answer if you know those things. Granted, that's a lot to know. I mean, that's pretty much it. But we are visual creatures, that's why a chart will be helpful. You'll make connections that you didn't make before. Oh, all these drugs end in "pril" (ACE Inhibitors), or "lol" (Beta Blockers). It helps. You may also want to include in your chart contraindications and/or other drugs that it interacts with.
  6. OPEN YOUR BOOK, AGAIN. Does your book have a website or a code that you can enter into a website? A lot of our nursing books have additional resources online. Granted we typically don't have time to take advantage of them all, but for pharmacology you'll want to. You'll also want to for pathophysiology. Actually, do every single one of these things for patho as well.
  7. ANTICIPATE TEST QUESTIONS. Perhaps your teacher has provided you with sample questions, or a study guide. If so, that's great. If not, well, that first test might be a doozy. Chances are if you do the above, especially replaying the lectures and making drug charts, you will do great. Pay attention to that first test and your teachers writing style to help guide you on the remaining tests.
  8. GO ONLINE. There are lots of resources online to help you. You're reading one right now. There are youtube videos. I can't tell you what a god send Youtube can be. Just be careful and pick out videos that you trust. Some are full of crap. I'll make it my goal over the weekend to add links to the Youtube accounts that I like. You can watch those while you get ready in the morning. Yay! Isn't nursing school so much fun!?! There are also excellent resources you can purchase. For instance Amazon and Barnes and Noble have flash cards that are great. I'd say make your own, because I know we're all poor, but that's a lot of time. I'd rather you spend that time on something else. You spend all your time just making them and will get very little use out of it. Trust me.

Wow. That's a lot of tips. That's a lot of work. I really can't make this class any easier. It's pharmacology. It's going to be tough. If you could just do 1-4 you'll do pretty good on your tests. I do suggest trying to do them all. Not only will your grades be better but you'll feel more confident when you're in clinical. Your future patients will thank you.

**Side note: I would recommend doing the above for pathophysiology as well. That's another tough one.

Since you are now armed with how to study for pharmacology I also have a post on 13 Test Taking Tips and Strategies AND Insanely Rapid way to Ace Pharmacology.

You might also be interested in these posts:

Everything a Nurse Needs to Know About Diuretics
Nurse's Guide to Beta Blockers

Hang in there, guys! You'll do great.

Do you have any additional tips that you use to study for pharmacology? Comment below, or send me an email if you'd like to see it included in the post.

{UPDATE} Here's a link to a pharmacology youtube channel that saved my life during advanced pharmacology. Super Awesome Pharmacology Youtube Link!




  1. Thank you so much for this post! I just got accepted into nursing school and I am looking for all the tips I can get! Pharmacology is one of our first classes so I want to be prepared. Thanks again!

    1. Whooo hooo!! Congratulations!! Pharm was in my first semester and was the hardest class for me. You'll do great! Just stay on top of things. The internet has so many amazing resources. Study a little bit everyday. It's one class you'll really have to work hard at but it's not impossible. Thanks for the comment. Good luck! :)

  2. Buy an NCLEX test question book. It's really hard to make up test sometimes nursing profs rely on these....not that I ever did that... ;)

    1. Ha! We will never spill your secrets, Anne. ;)

      Good tip!!

    2. Perfect advice! I am going on to my second semester of nursing school. This is the best advice that I have came across. Thanks!!

  3. Just discovered your site! It is now in my favorites! I'm not in nursing school yet but i'm glad I can use this as a resource :) thank you so much!

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