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Tips to Help you Ace Pharmacology

*Original post released on 4/25/2020

I know many of you find pharmacology to be an intimidating subject or struggle with its content. I wanted to share some of my tips for helping you master the content a little easier and more quickly. Your goal throughout pharmacology should be to know the information well enough to explain it to a non-medical family member of friend. Eventually you’ll be explaining meds to your patients, and more often than not, they won’t have a medical background of any kind. Without further ado, here they are!

  • Learn common suffixes for classes of medications to help you recognize their purpose more easily.
    • “-olol” usually indicates a beta blockers which is an antihypertensive that also helps lower HR
    • “-pril” usually indicates an ACE inhibitor which is an antihypertensive
    • “-ide” usually indicates a loop diuretic used for swelling/HTN
    • “-statin” usually indicates an antilipidemic which helps lower cholesterol
  • Learn the aspects of the med or class of medication that stick out. For example, don’t waste time learning N/V as a side effect because this is likely a side effect of most meds.
  • Take advantage of as many practice NCLEX questions and dosage calculation sample problems as you can! The more you do it, the easier they should become (or at least hopefully less intimidating). You can check out our dosage calculation study guide here:
  • Learn the basics of med administration as soon as possible so you can better understand how, where, and why meds are given via specific routes. You can check out our med administration study guide here:
  • Learn which method of learning works beat for you and maximize your understanding by using those methods. Maybe it’s flashcards, videos, images, auditory lectures…incorporate as many methods as possible to make that info like concrete in your mind.
    • If you’re an audio learner but don’t like lectures try YouTube! Cathy Parkes is a great resource especially for ATI content.
    • If you learn best with flash cards check out our drug cards here: or our mnemonics here:
    • Picmonic might be a good resource for you if you’re a highly visual learner.
  • If you’re having difficulty remembering a piece of information, make it into a funny phrase to help you remember it better. Humorous info tends to stick more easily in our minds.
  • Focus on the key aspects of a medical such as the class, MOA, max doses, major side/adverse effects, major teaching points and nursing aspects to monitor. Focus on how one class of medication is DIFFERENT from another.
  • Make time to study each day and dedicate yourself to continuing to learn these medications. Learning the basics and building a solid foundation now will help you THAT much more later on when you start working at the bedside. Setting aside time each day to study pharmacology content helps you be more consistent and also prevents cramming. You’ll thank me later.
  • If you have questions, ask! Don’t be afraid to seek clarification. If you don’t want to ask a question during lecture, keep a list of questions and then visit your prof during their office hours. They’ll see your hard work and dedication towards learning the material and it can make a huge difference later on. However, attempt to build up enough confidence to ask during lecture. It shows you’re engaged and thinking critically; plus, I can assure you that someone else likely has the same questions.
  • Be sure to look up any topics, medications, or conditions that you don’t understand. Breaking down these barriers will help you tie more of the information together and increase your retention of the info. Keep in mind too, that Patho and pharm go hand in hand.
  • Form a study group and teach each other! Tracking other people helps cement the info in your mind and prepares you for med teaching when you’re a bedside nurse.
  • Take key objectives from your professor’s lecture to make your own study guide if one is not provided to you. If they don’t list or mention objectives, use those listed at the beginning of your assigned readings.
  • Invest in a really good pharmacology drug guide. You’ll continue to use it throughout your program and hopefully as an RN as well. If you can’t afford the expense right now, a helpful tip is to google the med’s name along with Davis drug guide pdf. For most meds you should be able to find adequate relevant information about your meds.
  • And finally, if flashcards help you, use quizlet! Make your own sets or use another user’s cards. You can also use the audio feature to quiz yourself. I used to make my own sets and then have the app quiz me as I drove to school or walked to class. It was rapid fire and I had to think quick, but I learned the material through repetition.

I truly hope this tips will help some of you with your pharmacology class and even if you’re already in a program! If you have some tips and tricks that I didn’t touch on, leave them in the comments below!

XOXO Andra Alyse 😘


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