How to Pass Pharmacology in Nursing School: 10 Tips

stethoscope next to individual meds
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Getting into nursing school is hard, but staying in is harder.

Pharmacology is one of the main reasons nursing students get held back, or drop out completely.

While it may be difficult, it’s far from impossible! Set yourself up for success with these tips for passing pharmacology in nursing school.

*Disclosure: This article on how to pass pharmacology in nursing school may contain affiliate links. If you click and make a purchase, I may receive a commission. For more info, please see my disclaimer.

What is Pharmacology in Nursing School?

Pharmacology is the study of drugs and the effect they have on the body.

In order to pass pharmacology, you’ll need to be able to answer various questions when presented with a specific drug.

These include the drug’s onset, peak, duration, half-life, adverse effects, desired outcomes, contraindications, and interactions.

In combination with this, you’ll be asked a variety of questions to determine if you can tell when it is appropriate to give a specific drug.

For example:

Q: The patient has an apical pulse rate of 50 and their digoxin is due. What should you do?

A: Hold the digoxin and alert the physician, as the apical pulse rate should be over 60 to administer this drug.

It’s a lot to take in at once, and many programs have broken this class down into two semesters to assist students with the workload.

Tips for Passing Pharmacology Class in Nursing School

Here’s are top tips to get you through nursing school pharmacology class.

1. Set-up a Study Schedule

This video helps to emphasize the importance of having a good agenda or planner. Also the benefits of setting up SMART goals when it comes to your studying.

Setting a study schedule is important for any class in nursing school, but it becomes vital for success in pharmacology.

For many students, straight memorization can be difficult and requires strict discipline and daily study sessions.

There are many apps you can use to manage your schedule, as well as helpful whiteboards and planners to assist in keeping you on track.

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Nursing Student Planner

There are some great planners nursing students can use to help keep them organized when it comes to their study.

2. Form Study Groups

Research has shown that many students work better in groups than they do alone, which is why forming study groups are a great way to succeed in pharmacology.

A good study group should include 3-5 people, meet 1-2 times a week, and have the same level of dedication.

Other tips for a good study group session include bringing snacks, taking frequent breaks, and having access to a whiteboard or projector.

3. Use FlashCards

Pulling from experience or using a process of elimination can be difficult in this class, which is why pharmacology requires straight memorization to succeed.

Flashcards can help with this and they are great for studying on the go.

One of the most important benefits of this tool is that it requires you to either type in or write down the information and then study it, so you’re getting multiple methods of learning at once.

There are a few popular apps for students as well, such as Quizlet, if you’re trying to ditch the paper.

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Hole-Punched Flash Cards with 5 Metal Sorting Rings

If you’re not trying to use digital flashcards than you should consider multi-colored flashcards with a metal ring. This helps you keep them organized and from going missing.

You can also get pre-made pharmacology flashcards as well such as the Pharm Phlash!: Pharmacology Flash Cards (on Amazon).

Part of why we like these pharm flashcards is because the author is Valerie Leek a master’s prepared nurse, so the cards focus more on what nurses need to know.

See what the other nursing students are saying about the Pharm Phlash!: Pharmacology Flash Cards (on Amazon).

As a side note check out our full list of the best pharmacology flashcards for nursing students.

4. Hire a Pharmacology Tutor

If you’re really struggling, or just want to be proactive, hiring a tutor is a great way to hold yourself accountable.

On top of that it forces you to have regular study sessions while gaining more knowledge from an experienced student or professional.

Hire a Tutor for Pharmacology

If you’re in need of a tutor for the pharm nursing school class, you can find one by using the online tutoring platform Wyzant.

Check with your school about free tutoring sessions with senior students who have already completed pharmacology.

There are often tutoring programs within nursing programs made up of current students who want to help.

Equally as important is finding the right tutor.

Remember, everyone learns differently. Discover what type of learner you are and hire your tutor accordingly.

Pro-Tip:
Using an online tutoring platform like Wyzant can be a good way to find the right tutor who’s willing to meet you either in person or online when it’s most convenient for you.

You can start searching TODAY by using the box below.

5. Begin With the END in Mind

Using the suffix categorization strategy is one of the most useful study tips for pharmacology.

For example, beta-blockers all end in -olol (propranolol, betaxolol, esmolol, etc).

While ACE inhibitors end in -pril (lisinopril, trandolapril, perindopril, etc).

Many drug categories can be identified in this fashion, and some can also be categorized down to specific letters or prefixes.

6. Pneumonics and Phrases

There are great pneumonics or other stories that students have come up with in order to remember drug names and side effects.

While reading through other student’s creative ideas can be a good way to learn, it’s best to try and come up with your own if other people’s ideas aren’t resonating with you.

For example:
“Clear before cloudy,” tells us to draw up clear insulin first and cloudy second.

While benzodiazepines can be remembered by Donuts And TLC (diazepam, alprazolam, temazepam, lorazepam, and clonazepam).

7. Have a Dedicated Study Space

The area you study in is often directly correlated to your success.

Your study space should have easy access to your textbooks, notebooks, and computer as well as snacks, water, and good lighting.

Remember, you’ll be spending a lot of time here during nursing school so make sure you get this area perfect for your personality type!

If you can’t figure out exactly what you need in your study room, there are plenty of sources online to help guide you.

8. Get a Good Drug Guide

If you’re going to be studying pharmacology, I think it goes without saying you’re going to need a good drug guide.

I prefer Davis’s Drug Guide for Nurses (on Amazon), but there’s a lot of other options out there.

We even wrote an entire article on it “best drug guide for nursing students.” Check it out and see all the other options.

9. Get a Good Study Guide

On top of a good drug guide having a dedicated study guide just for pharmacology can really help.

A good one is Pharmacology made Incredibly Easy! by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins (on Amazon).

A good drug guide + a good study guide can be a winning combination for some nursing students who are struggling in pharmacology.

10. Record the Lectures

Remember when I said earlier to learn what kind of a learner you were? It really is important.

For example some nursing students are auditory learners which means they learn by listening and hearing.

One of the best ways an auditory learner can learn is by re-listening to lectures.

You can use your smartphone to record the pharm lectures, though many nursing students prefer just having a dedicated recorder like this one (from Amazon).

Pro Tip:
Make sure to get permission from the nursing professor first, before you start recording their lecture.

Are you still on the fence about getting a voice recorder and you know it could probably help you be successful?

Here’s a quick video look on the EVISTR Digital Voice Recorder.

A video look at the EVISTR Digital Voice Recorder.

11. Teach Others

Albert Einstein said,

If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.

Albert Einstein

The point of bringing up that quote is to emphasize that if you can get to a point where you can teach the material to others (or at least try) it does two things.

  1. It forces you to have to learn the material.
  2. It reinforces and strengthens what you already know.

Some of my best tests in nursing school were the ones where I had explained things many times to so many people that I knew the material really well.

12. Take Better Notes – By Using Cornell Notes

One of the main reasons college students struggle besides not showing up for class is that their note-taking system is not very good.

→Related Article: How to Take Notes in Nursing School

Since as far back as I can remember I’ve been using the C-Notes format to take my notes. I’ve found it helpful, and I think you would also.

Here’s a quick video that goes over how to take Cornell notes.

You can just draw the lines yourself, but you can also get notebook paper that already has the lines drawn like this one (on Amazon).

Final Thoughts

Did you make it through Pharmacology in one piece?

Let us know how you managed it or if you have any additional tips you’d like to share!

Frequently Asked Questions

Is pharmacology hard in nursing school?

Pharmacology is a hard class in nursing school, and most nursing students will find it difficult. But with good planning, it’s a class many students will come to enjoy and learn a lot in.

Related Articles on Passing Pharmacology as a Nursing Student

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