No calculators allowed as an RN?

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JBudd, MSN

Specializes in Trauma, Teaching. Has 41 years experience. 1 Article; 3,836 Posts

I taught drug calc in a nursing programt; you really do need to know how to get the answer without a calculator because at some point you may not have one available.

You have to show the steps to show that you understand the process and can apply it in other situations or problems.

Being able to estimate a ballpark figure lets you know if an answer is way off for some reason (my fat fingers on the calculator come to mind :sarcastic: ).

That being said, I am all for calculators to save time and double check that mental estimate, not to mention when you are on hour 11 or 12 of your night shift, you need all the help you can get. Show me you understand the process (the why's as well as the how's), and after that use all the adjunct help you can lay your hands on.

akulahawkRN, ADN, RN, EMT-P

Specializes in Emergency Department. Has 7 years experience. 3,488 Posts

In real life, most nurses really do use calculators. The thing is that calculators can fail, can be lost, or possibly even be inadvertently smashed against something and therefore no longer work. If you don't know how to do the calculations on your own without the assistance of a calculator, you could be very rightly and truly stuck and end up causing a potentially fatal medication error simply because you did not know how to convert or calculate something.

As others have also said, knowing how to do the calculation will also enable you to quickly guesstimate so that you will be relatively confident that you have arrived at the correct answer when you're using the calculator. There have been times when I have come up with an incorrect answer when using the calculator and my guesstimate was off enough that it caused me to reevaluate the equation and calculation, only to find out that I entered something in the calculator incorrectly. I may be speedy at most things, but when it comes to calculating medication doses, I do take my time to ensure that I am doing it right.

Horseshoe

Horseshoe, BSN, RN

5,879 Posts

Since patient SAFETY is the priority, not showing what a great math whiz the nurse is, calculators are appreciated if that is the quickest, most accurate way to get the proper dose of a medication to the patient.

Your teacher probably just wants you to know how to do it yourself so that you could do it if need be.

nurseprnRN

nurseprnRN, BSN, RN

2 Articles; 5,114 Posts

I bought my first calculator for figuring hemodynamic drips in the ICU in 1974, when they were newly available - and pricy, and big.

You do need to know the why and how to set up your problems-- God knows we see lots of people here who are completely flummoxed when their "calculations " are wrong because they plugged all available numbers into a formula without identifying the irrelevant distractors. Test constructors know this and provide alternative incorrect answers that would result if the numbers were entered without discrimination. Give your teacher some kudos for being sure her students are well-grounded in the basics. Walk before you run and all that.

BuckyBadgerRN

BuckyBadgerRN, ASN, RN

Specializes in HH, Peds, Rehab, Clinical. Has 4 years experience. 3,520 Posts

Were some of her neighbors growing up dinosaurs? Because that may have been true back then, it's not now. Who in their right mind would set a patient up for a drug error because they won't "allow" RN's to use a calculator? Horrible, inaccurate and truly awful advice. Send her here, we'll gladly tell her that too

applesxoranges

applesxoranges, BSN, RN

Specializes in ER. 2,242 Posts

Um. I don't use calculators to convert temperatures. I either use my cheat card on the back of my badge or I hit the c/f button for the thermometer. I don't think any thermometer is strictly one or the other. I generally have an idea of where the fever starts and what is normal in Celsius.

42pines

42pines

Specializes in Occupational Health; Adult ICU. 1 Article; 369 Posts

Pardon my old age but it's neat that some phones now have calculators but doesn't the cord get in the way?

CT Pixie, BSN, RN

Has 10 years experience. 3,723 Posts

You all made me laugh! Thank you for the answers. I was more than sure there were plenty of nurses out there who used their calculators. She is middle aged so she may just be old school about everything. She wouldn't even let us use out calculators on worksheets. We had to show ALL our work on how we go out answers from F to C, ml to L, oz to lbs, etc. The math is pretty easy but to write it ALL down for 20+ questions is ridiculous. I was about to go nuts in her class. :)

Umm, ouch! Way to shove a dagger in my back (as well as many of us 'middle aged' nurses) :)

I am middle aged (46) and I routinely use my calculator and to the disbelief of some, this old lady has and knows how to use this new tech thing called a smart phone which has of all things...a calculator :)

but I do see the teachers point. If by some weird situation I was without the ability to use a calculator, I am perfectly capable of knowing how to set up the problem as well as have mastered the act of simple +, -, x, /

I went to school with some younger students who had the most difficult time with simple math. Long division..ohh the horror, they had no idea how to do it. they were so use to using a calculator.

Spangle Brown

Spangle Brown

302 Posts

I"m a middle aged student in nursing school. Yes, we use them. For tests we can bring a very simple calculator. The kind you spend $2 on. And since they are so cheep, we can bring a second one incase the first one breaks.

The math is dimensional analysis, and every step must be shown on the tests. Even if you can read the problem and figure it out in your head. You can write down the correct answer, and they will count it wrong without showing the work.

Purple_roses

Purple_roses

1,763 Posts

I doubt that's true. However, it is imperative to have the necessary math skills should you ever find yourself without a calculator--which is absolutely not likely to happen, but you never know I guess.

delawaremalenurse

Specializes in Occ. Hlth, Education, ICU, Med-Surg. 227 Posts

I bought my first calculator for figuring hemodynamic drips in the ICU in 1974, when they were newly available - and pricy, and big.

You do need to know the why and how to set up your problems-- God knows we see lots of people here who are completely flummoxed when their "calculations " are wrong because they plugged all available numbers into a formula without identifying the irrelevant distractors. Test constructors know this and provide alternative incorrect answers that would result if the numbers were entered without discrimination. Give your teacher some kudos for being sure her students are well-grounded in the basics. Walk before you run and all that.

LOL...I remember my father being in a flight school TDY station in the 70's and having to buy a calculator....he paid almost $600 for it! You can get a calculator now that does 10x what that one did for $20!

course this was about the same time that my friends and I had the digital Timex with the red LED display that lit up when you pushed the button.....