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How to learn medications without a pharmacology class?

Has 8 years experience.

I am in an ADN program in Alabama and they don't have a pharmacology class in the curriculum. At first I thought I would be ok with it because I heard how hard it was in the BSN programs at other school. However, I just don't think it's a good thing! But I know my most commonly given drugs such as Lasix, Cardizem, Insulin, etc. The instructors get so upset in clinical when you don't certain things but it seems to be never enough, even if you have learned the drug card and/or drug book by heart! They make me feel so dumb! I guess I'm just asking what do I need to do to learn about the classes such as Hypertension drugs, Endocrine drugs, GI drugs, Respiratory drugs. I've already appoarched the instructors about this and they say make drug cards but ON WHAT? I've made cards and I'm obviously not doing something right!

If you have a Davis drug book for nurses, it would help. Go to the categories and then make your own med cat sheets. I've got tons of them....

I can't imagine a nursing program without pharm.

Dazglue, ADN, BSN, MSN, RN

Has 8 years experience.

Yeah I have one of those! Plus they don't use books anymore, just an Ipod Touch. I'm young and even I still prefer books! Technology can fail at any minute without warning! I wish I would have done more research on this program. True they have more hands-on experience but I would much rather have a pharm class! Thanks I will try that too. I know the more I give it the more I know the drug but you never know in clinical.


Specializes in Gerontology, nursing education.

The drug cards we made in my ADN program (back in the days of the dinosaurs!) included:

Generic and trade names


Indications for use

Recommended dosages

Recommended routes

Side effects and contraindications

Other pertinent information

Again, it's been a long time since I wrote out drug cards but I found them to be very useful in helping me to learn.

JROregon, ASN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Infusion. Has 5 years experience.

If you can get a pharma book, go for it. Here are some more things we cover:

When does drug therapy become most effective ? With a lot of the anti- depressant and anti-anxiety drugs, the patient may not get the desired results for weeks and even more than a month.

What foods commonly cause bad interactions? Grapefruit juice, smoked/aged foods containing tyramines can make drugs toxic or cause severe side effects.

Know about all the different types of insulin and how fast/slow they work as well as how long they are effective. Get as much info as you can on drugs with a narrow therapeutic range, stuff that can be really toxic if a patient gets just a little too much. Lithium is one of those. Make a list of the most common drugs you see being prescribed and learn all you can about adverse reactions, what can be used to counteract, symptoms a patient is having that indicates an anaphylactic response or a loss of CNS functioning.

Edited by JROregon

Here is what our med cards have on them for my bachelors to bsn program. Good luck!!

The information to be included for each medication is listed below:

Generic Name:


Trade Names:

Therapeutic Effect: (What does the medication do for the body?)

Uses: (What is this medication used for?)

Side Effects: (What manageable effects might occur with this medication? For example, nausea or constipation)

Adverse Reactions/Toxic Effects: (What might occur that would cause this medication to be discontinued?)

Nursing Interventions Required: (What does the nurse need to do before and after giving this medication?)

Teaching Required: (What does the client need to know about this medication?)

Alterations for Children or the Elderly: (Will not apply to all medications)


Has 3 years experience.

I'm not sure what college you attend in AL, but I attend Bevill State. I looked in the bookstore yesterday and they had old versions of Nursing books (including Pharmacology books) on sale for 5 dollars. They are not that old..they were used for the previous class.


Specializes in ER, ARNP, MSN, FNP-BC. Has 17 years experience.

I did my BSN back in the 80's and early 90's :). We did not have pharm as the meds were integrated into the didactic classes, i.e. we learned ob/gyn meds in that lecture etc. etc. My recommendation to you:

1. Instead of learning individual medications, study CLASSES of drugs.Many times an ACEI is an ACEI is an ACEI. There are some exceptions, obviously.

2. Epocrates has a FREE application online and on most handheld devices that covers medications. it is AWESOME. it gives you everything you need at the touch of a button. its what almost all of us practitioners use in prescribing.



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