Nothing causes more headaches, sleepless nights and ruined grade point averages than pharmacology.

There are at least 20,000 FDA-approved prescription drugs being prescribed today. You’ve got to know them to safely and effectively administer them.

Not only do you need to know their names, you have to know their side-effects, indications, contraindications and interactions with other medications.

It can feel overwhelming – no, it is overwhelming. It’s a lot of information to learn in a short time, whether you’re trying to make it through nursing school or studying for the NCLEX.

But by learning a few simple do’s and don’ts for studying pharmacology, you’ll turn what seemed like an impossible feat of memorization into passing grades.

So to help you conquer those medication names and facts, we’ve got the best Do’s and Don’ts for learning pharmacology the right way.

DON’T: Try to study everything all at once

There’s too much information to take in. If you just try to cram your way through it, you won’t make it.

DO: Develop a study method

You need to develop a study method and these tips will help you do that. Find what works for you and stick to it.

One of the most common methods (because it works) is to make flashcards. Making them yourself is better than buying them. The act of writing helps commit the information to memory.

Here’s what you do:

  • Get 8 x 5 notecards
  • Write the drug’s name on one side and all its info on the other
  • Keep them with you and review them often

You can see some more genius study tips and tricks here.

DON’T: Try to memorize every drug name

Trying to study each drug individually and memorize each name is going to waste a lot of time and valuable brain space on information you don’t need to know.

DO: Study classes of drugs by their prefixes and suffixes

You may have already figured it out, but classes of drugs usually have the same prefixes or suffixes. This way it’ll be easier to recognize and identify indications, side-effects and interactions – even for a drug you’re not familiar with. For example:

  • Beta-blockers tend to end in -olol
  • Antibiotics often end in -mycin , -cillin, , or -oxacin
  • ACE inhibitors end in -pril

 DON’T: Try to memorize trade names of drugs

Some drugs have multiple trade names – you’re going to have to remember way information if you try to memorize them all.

DO: Learn the generic names

Generic names are the same for every drug. There is only one to remember – so learn it.

DON’T: Try waste time learning each and every side-effect

There are tons of side effects and some are the same for different drugs.

DO: Learn side-effects by their action on the body

If you know what a drug does to the body, you’ll have a good indication of its side-effects. For example, Beta-blockers block the beta-1 receptors in cardiac muscles. So you can guess its side-effects to be fatigue, dizziness, drowsiness and sleep problems.

DON’T: Limit your study options

Don’t stick to one single study method, like trying to memorize your textbooks.

DO: Use a variety of study tools

Mix it up. In addition to making some flashcards try:

The key takeaway here is you have to study smarter, not harder. Focus your time on learning only the essentials and you won’t get overwhelmed. Learn the generic names, drug classes, effects on the body and interactions.

And definitely make some flashcards.


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