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10 Study Tips for Pharmacology

By Austin Johnson

Studying Pharmacology can be daunting. The most common problem I experienced when I started nursing school was not knowing where to start. The two primary references that I found incredibly helpful in resolving this issue were the Saunders Review for the NCLEX-RN Examination and Pharmacology 10th edition - A Patient-Centered Nursing Process Approach book

Pharmacology used to scare me when I started nursing school. The Saunders Review book is the top resource that I used to pass my Pharmacology course, and I continuously use it every day when studying for my other classes. 
Here are my top 10 Pharmacology study tips when preparing for class and clinicals with the help of the Saunders Review book and your textbook. These tips will help make Pharmacology feel like a breeze.

  • Make drug cards for each drug or a drug card for each drug classification. I prefer handwriting my drug cards. This helps me retain the material in my memory.
  • Try to study the classifications of medications instead of studying each drug. This will allow you to understand all medications within a drug class, the indications for the use of the drugs, the interventions, and the adverse effects. This process is less confusing than the latter.
  • Understand that the medications in the same classifications share many of the same characteristics (I.e., adverse effects). The subtle differences between them stand out that will help you remember.
  • Evaluate the areas or topics you need to review before building your study plan to avoid overstudying. A good tool that I found useful to evaluate myself was by completing NCLEX style questions located within each chapter of the review book and my textbook. Once I know the answer to the question and understand the rationale behind it, I move on to the next concept.
  • Make sure you know how to administer medications safely. This includes knowing at minimum the five rights of medication administration (right patient, right drug, right dose, right route, and right time) and how to administer medications safely and accurately by the prescribed route (i.e. PO, Subcut, IM, etc).
  • Whenever you are in a clinical situation and you are not familiar with a medication, STOP and look the medication up. Looking up medication can be done in many different ways from using the handy-dandy drug guides, using Lexicomp, or even calling a pharmacy for clarification. Always remember that the patient’s safety comes first.
  • Create a study plan or calendar. I print out a blank calendar from the internet and fill each day with content from the content/drugs that I am required to know while making a few tweaks on which content I want to review further. A good rule of thumb is to begin studying as early as possible and review at least 24-48 hours prior to taking the exam. Creating a study calendar allows you to visually see what you will be doing day by day and alter it as you see fit.
  • Read or skim through the information at least twice when reviewing a chapter. I recommend skimming through the chapter the first time without highlighting or jotting down notes.  Then on your second read-through, focus on the information that is typically bolded, placed in boxes, is visually drawn, and/or has a triangle next.