Pharmacology can be a brutal class for many nursing students, but there’s a reason you’ve got to learn it to be a licensed nurse.

Patient safety.

A recent study found that as many as 7,000 to 9,000 people die each year from a medication error. Even more surprising, an estimated number in the hundreds of thousands of people had adverse reactions to medications and didn’t report it. Medication errors are one of the most common errors that seriously affect patient care.

Nurses have to understand the action of a drug they’re administering has on a patient’s body, they have to be aware of any interactions it may have with other medications the patient is also taking.

A quick, easy way to check drugs, interactions, dosages, and more is to use drug cards for nursing students.

What if that patient is newly admitted with an irregular heartbeat who is prescribed statins but forgot to tell you about the cold medicine he’s been taking for the past two days?

Nurses also have to be able to recognize what a reaction might be caused by sometimes with limited or missing information.

That’s why a strong grasp of pharmacology is essential to keeping patients safe when they’re being prescribed drugs and medications.


Pharmacology And Patient Safety


Medication errors can have serious consequences for a patient, including:

  • A prolonged hospital stay
  • Additional medical interventions
  • Serious harm to the patient’s health
  • Death

One of the nurse’s primary duties is to administer drugs and medications to their patients. They’re responsible for understanding the correct dosage, potential side-effects, route, patient response, and educating patients on self-administration.

All of this is because the nurse is the patient’s main contact – the person who has the most interaction with them. They do more than just hand out pills.

They’re responsible for monitoring how their patient reacts to the medication. To keep the patient safe. To see that she is handling the medication well and not having an adverse reaction. To make an informed judgment, assessing their patient.

Yes, it’s to keep your patient safe. But a good, strong understanding of pharmacology protects nurses too. When you’re a nursing student or even a new nurse, using one of these best pharmacology study guides and aids is the best way to learn this difficult subject.


The Most Common Causes Of Medication Errors


Sometimes it can be chalked up to being distracted, tired, or plain old human error. But there are several common reasons nurses make medication errors:

  • Insufficient understanding of pharmacology
  • Dosage miscalculations
  • A busy workload
  • Fatigue
  • Distractions

A stronger understanding of pharmacology can prevent many errors, but when it comes to a hectic, busy schedule, it’s important to slow down and take an extra second to check when you’re administering medications.


The Consequences Of Medication Errors


A medication error by a nurse doesn’t just have potentially life-threatening consequences for the patient – it can also be emotionally devastating to the nurse who committed the error.

An error like that can destroy a nurse’s confidence and self-esteem while leaving them with a deep feeling of guilt. A study found that out of about 200 nurses questioned, more than 150 of them admitted to making an error.

As if potentially harming a patient isn’t bad enough, a nurse who makes a medication error could possibly face a medical malpractice suit. Medication negligence is about 20% of the malpractice claims brought against nurses.


How To Reduce Medication Errors


There is a really simple way to reduce medication errors (that you probably already know, but we’re going to review).

First – you need to have a firm grasp of pharmacology. If you’re a practicing nurse, you still have to update your knowledge and have a review now and again.

If remembering all that pharm data is difficult, here are some simple ways on how to remember everything you learn. You can also use this memory method to help you remember some crucial steps in administering medication to patients:

It’s called the 5 Rights or 5 Rs:

  • Right Patient
  • Right Drug
  • Right Dose
  • Right Route
  • Right Time

If you run through that checklist every time you administer medication you can dramatically reduce your errors.

WARNING: Don’t forget your documentation. If you forget to document administering a medication, the patient could get an extra dose.


Medication can heal, but it can also harm – especially if it’s improperly administered. It is the nurse’s responsibility to see that their patient is administered the right drug, in the right dose at the right time.

Taking just a quick minute to double-check the patient’s information, the prescription, and running through the 5 Rights can dramatically reduce medication errors.

Because it only takes a second to make a mistake.

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