Jump to content

An RN who isn't good at math?

Posted

I'm a pre nursing student who is waiting on an acceptance or denial letter from my choice ADN program. I'm fairly confident that I will be accepted. I have completed the majority of my BSN prereqs as well as all of my ADN prereqs (I only have 3 classes left until I'm done with my BSN prereqs).

Here is the issue. I'm not so great at math. It's not even that Im terrible at at, I'm just really uncomfortable with it. College level algebra is not a requirement for my ADN program. Nor for my future RN-BSN program. Statistics is, and I am registered to take that in the fall. Here is my question. Is it a mistake to begin nursing school before I have taken algebra or if I am uncomfortable with algebra skills? What can I do over the summer before I start RN school to prepare myself?

The main reason I am making this post is because I went to speak with a cousoler and I voiced these concerns and he actually told me that I should consider changing my major. This just about broke my heart. So any advice is truly appreciated!

TransportJockey, EMT-P

Specializes in Critical Care, Emergency Medicine, C-NPT, FP-C. Has 10 years experience.

I hate math. I have taken college algebra twice in the past and trig once. But I can do med math in my head and have no issues doing the math that being a nurse or medic requires (med calc is the same no matter which position I might do now or in the future). I'm doing beginning algebra for my EC requirement.

CamillusRN

Specializes in OR, CVICU/CTICU.

Solution: Carry a calculator and memorize the small handful of formulas you'll ever use. Or even carry a cheat sheet. 3/4 of my graduating class admittedly sucked at math, but they didn't let that stop them. Over the summer? Try getting together with someone who has experience with drug/drip/dose calculations and start mathing away. Once you have the formulas down, there's nothing to it except making sure your units cross out. Best of luck to you!

My nursing math instructor told us this: It's 2 am in the morning and you have to convert a formula. What do you do? Answer: grab your calculator. It's 2pm in the afternoon what do you do? Answer call the pharmacy. I dislike math and I made it through. Statistics is hard. Not gonna lie. You can do it.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 15 years experience.

I don't dislike math or anything of that sort. However, I estimate that my numeracy skills are at a 4th grade level at the most. It is nothing I am proud of, but after more than a decade of remediation to no avail, I've decided to focus on other things.

I can attain a perfect 100 percent score on a dosage calculations quiz, but flounder with basic topics such as fractions, the order of operations, integers, and absolute value. I am also extremely distractible, which does not help.

Anyhow, I've been a nurse for nine years. I stair-stepped my way up the nursing career ladder, mostly because of my deficient math skills. I started as an LVN, then earned an ASN degree and resultant RN license, then earned a BSN degree recently.

The LVN and ASN programs required no college level math coursework whatsoever. The BSN program required a basic statistics course which involved mostly theory and virtually no calculations, so I was able to get through it.

I know why many nursing programs require college algebra: it helps students develop higher-order cognitive skills that pertain to abstraction. However, I am an example of someone who has been able to get through life and nursing without a solid mathematical foundation.

By the way, I am a product of social promotion. I took prealgebra in 7th grade and algebra I in 8th grade. In high school I took algebra II, geometry, trigonometry, statistics and precalculus, but didn't learn didley squat because I had arrived at high school without basic arithmetic skills such as subtracting fractions. After a decade in remedial and developmental courses at community colleges in two different states, it still isn't clicking.

Good luck to you.

Thecommuter, Well maybe that gives me some hope then. Thank you!

NurseGirl525, ASN, RN

Specializes in ICU.

Have you taken any remedial algebra? Do you have to take an entrance exam? I took the Teas and there was nothing harder than algebra I on it.

I sucked at at higher level math when I was younger. My first semester back I took algebra I and got an excellent teacher who got me to finally get it. College algebra was a prereq for my program.

Med math is basic math. If you can divide, multiply, and convert, you should be fine. It is a requirement that all tests have at least 5% math on them if they are accredited. So you are going to have to do it, and you will need to become proficient. With computers these days doing most of the work, I can't see how much you will need it, but you need to know how to do it. Look at Khan Acadmey online. It may help. I'm thinking the reason the advisor told you to pick another major is that math is a big part of the program. But it's not algebra level stuff. It's multiplying and dividing.

IMHO math isn't a "huge" part of nursing.

Knowing how to calculate a drip is important but its not statistics or calculus.

Nowadays pharmacy calculates everything for you but when in doubt, especially in critical care, double check not only with your own math but another nurse!

And for that matter - any high risk med requires another nurse to cosign with you anyway.

And on this subject matter you get to know what is normal and not. For instance if I had an order to start an insulin drip at 100ml/hr I would freak out and call pharmacy immediately.

I want to elaborate on the above for a minute. This IS a huge part of nursing. When a nurse gets an order that has a questionable dose, that is where math is important. It isn't so much as can you figure out the odds of pulling a spade (statistics) or plotting X and Y as in algebra, it's having the intelligence to recognize something is not right for YOUR patient and taking the correct action. I would not expect a general college counselor to understand this. I don't know you personally either.

One time in medsurg we were in the middle of rapid responsing a very symptomatic bradycardic patient, I looked at the new doc at the bedside and asked if he wanted any meds started? He stared back and said he didn't know what we could do on the floor. I said you tell me what you need. He still looked flustered so I said how about dobutamine and we'll start at 5mcg/kg/min? He agreed, got the drip started and got the heart rate up to 50's within a few minutes. Patient was transferred to ICU.

You don't need algebra or statistics for that. You need good nursing education and experience.

I barely passed statistics. I am not fantastic at math. I barely remember any algebra. I have an ASN and BSN, practice as a staff & charge nurse and am starting ICU next week.

Edited by JustKeepSmiling

IMHO math isn't a "huge" part of nursing.

Knowing how to calculate a drip is important but its not statistics or calculus.

Nowadays pharmacy calculates everything for you but when in doubt, especially in critical care, double check not only with your own math but another nurse!

And for that matter - any high risk med requires another nurse to cosign with you anyway.

And on this subject matter you get to know what is normal and not. For instance if I had an order to start an insulin drip at 100ml/hr I would freak out and call pharmacy immediately.

I want to elaborate on the above for a minute. This IS a huge part of nursing. When a nurse gets an order that has a questionable dose, that is where math is important. It isn't so much as can you figure out the odds of pulling a spade (statistics) or plotting X and Y as in algebra, it's having the intelligence to recognize something is not right for YOUR patient and taking the correct action. I would not expect a general college counselor to understand this. I don't know you personally either.

One time in medsurg we were in the middle of rapid responsing a very symptomatic bradycardic patient, I looked at the new doc at the bedside and asked if he wanted any meds started? He stared back and said he didn't know what we could do on the floor. I said you tell me what you need. He still looked flustered so I said how about dobutamine and we'll start at 5mcg/kg/min? He agreed, got the drip started and got the heart rate up to 50's within a few minutes. Patient was transferred to ICU.

You don't need algebra or statistics for that. You need good nursing education and experience.

I barely passed statistics. I am not fantastic at math. I barely remember any algebra. I have an ASN and BSN, practice as a staff & charge nurse and am starting ICU next week.

Thank you taking the time to answer in such depth. Your answer was very informative and really helped me a lot!

Have you taken any remedial algebra? Do you have to take an entrance exam? I took the Teas and there was nothing harder than algebra I on it.

I sucked at at higher level math when I was younger. My first semester back I took algebra I and got an excellent teacher who got me to finally get it. College algebra was a prereq for my program.

Med math is basic math. If you can divide, multiply, and convert, you should be fine. It is a requirement that all tests have at least 5% math on them if they are accredited. So you are going to have to do it, and you will need to become proficient. With computers these days doing most of the work, I can't see how much you will need it, but you need to know how to do it. Look at Khan Acadmey online. It may help. I'm thinking the reason the advisor told you to pick another major is that math is a big part of the program. But it's not algebra level stuff. It's multiplying and dividing.

I took a developmental math class when I first started college. And I had to take the TEAS test as an entrance exam and I actually received a 90.4 on the math section... A little contradicting I know, but like I said, I'm just really uncomfortable with math. I never feel sure about my answers. I constantly second guess myself. I know that my program does have a couple (I cant remember how many but at least 2) math tests, which makes me very anxious. But luckily, I know how to divide, multiply, and convert. Conversions are a little on the iffy side for me so maybe that's something I should be concentrating on over the summer.

HouTx, BSN, MSN, EdD

Specializes in Critical Care, Education. Has 35 years experience.

Hang on a sec. The amount of math 'understanding' you need for your nursing practice is very dependent upon the area in which you practice. In order to achieve critical care expertise, a nurse needs to understand some fairly sophisticated mathematical principles related to hemodynamics, vascular perfusion and pulmonary function. Titrating multiple vasoactive drips & fluids to achieve desired targets does require a working knowledge of all the factors involved.

Math skills are also required for chemistry... another essential area of 'understanding' to manage acutely ill patients.

So - while there are many clinical areas in which math skills are a non-issue, it's not a one-size-fits-all.

There doesn't seem to be a perfect answer to my questions, not that I really expected one. But thanks to everyone who took the time to answer the questions of a concerned student! It sounds like I just need to buckle down and force myself to become familiar with basic, and possibly more advanced, mathematical concepts.

Heres another question... (similar to what I asked already) Since I plan on starting RN school in the fall, should I take Algebra instead of statistics in the fall along with starting my nursing classes (Considering that I do want to work in an ICU type environment)? As I mentioned above, algebra is not a requirement for my program, nor for the RN-BSN program I plan on attending after I have completed my ASN. Statistics is. But I am nervous to miss out on information that I might need later on. I of course understand that there is no right or wrong answer here but I appreciate any advice given! I want to become more comfortable with the concepts that I need to be a successful RN, but I also don't really want to waste my time and money on a class that I don't necessarily need. Thanks in advance!

What most people call "math" is really high-school-level algebra. This summer, wander on over to your local high school and take the summer school algebra I class. You will probably ace it, and that will be all you'll need to solve the word problems that constitute "med math."

The skill you'll want on focus on is identifying what's really being asked. For example, rather than freaking out when you see a problem like this ...

"Miraclecillin is prescribed for your patient at 10mg/kg body weight. He weighs 220lbs. It is delivered from pharmacy in a bag with 1 gram/500cc to give over two hours. Your IV tubing delivers 16 gtts (drops) per cc. How many cc/hour do you set your IV pump rate?"

... stop and take a deep breath.

There's a whole lot of numbers in there. However, stripping it down to, "What are they asking?" you discover that you have to give this bag of 500cc in two hours. If you can't divide 500 by 2 and come up with 250cc/hour, then you are beyond help. But of course, you can do that.

I am assuming you understand the usual equivalents of 1000 mg = 1 gm, 1000 cc = 1L, 1 hour = 60 minutes, and so forth. Print them out and stick them up over your desk to get used to them.

I have used this website in the past to brush up on my math skills: https://www.khanacademy.org/

It' a fantastic site and can take you from basic arithmetic up through calculus - whether you use it to study for algebra or prepare for the course. Hope it helps.

If your heart is in nursing, you should follow it and take one step at a time to actively improve your basic math skills. You can do it. :)

I too am a pre-nursing student anxiously awaiting a letter from a college that started doing my RN-BSN prereqs in the interim between finishing ADN prereqs and actually getting accepted in the program.

I am absolutely dreadful with algebra but I aced all the dosage tests in Pharmacology because they're ratios and I am quite adept at them. That all said, I'm taking statistics now and stat is nothing like algebra IMHO. We were at the beginning of the course that we could either get a TI-84/3 calculator or do all the calculations longhand...preferably to utilize both options.

The semester is almost over and I, having no strong math skills, haven't gotten anything lower than a 97 on a homework assignment or a 92 on the test. Literally all Stat is figuring out how to use the calculator and plugging numbers into formulas. The test comes with a 8 page sheet of formulas so you just have to recognize which one you need for that particular problem, put the numbers in the right places and the calculator pretty much does the rest.

I've talked to many friends that have taken the ADN program before I did and they told me that's it's almost exclusively ratios and memorizing the metric system. Think of it this way, between Youtube, KhanAcademy and tutoring (if your school offers it) you'll have all the help you need.

I don't know if this has been stated because I haven't read the comments yet, but I don't know of a college in the world that will let you take Statistics without requiring prerequisite Algebra or another math. You may want to double check. My college also requires Stats, but before you can enroll in the Stats class there are two math courses that must be completed(unless your placement test scores are acceptable).

The LVN and ASN programs required no college level math coursework whatsoever. The BSN program required a basic statistics course which involved mostly theory and virtually no calculations, so I was able to get through it.

I obviously attended the wrong school. We had to pass math prereqs before we could take Statistics or Biology or Chemistry. Sheesh!