Do I Need To Be Good At Math To Be A Nurse?
The short answer is no, you don’t really have to be good at math in order to become a nurse. However, you do need to be able to add, subtract, divide and multiply to be able to perform your duties when you start working. You also need to master conversion since this will come in handy later on when you may need to convert the amount of medications to be given. While there will most likely be a course covering mathematical calculations in medicine in your nursing curriculum, it’s important to start being proficient in conversions and basic mathematical operations while you are still in high school.
One of the areas in nursing where math will be used often is in the area of dosage administration. When doctors prescribe medicine for nurses to administer to their patients, the pharmacy will usually dispense the stated dosage. Thus, if it is “500 mg to be given every 8 hours,” then the pharmacy would normally dispense 500 mg pills and there would be no problems. However, there are times when the pharmacy has run out of stock of 500 mg pills and only 250 mg pills would be given. It would be the responsibility of the nurse to make the necessary calculations on how many pills to be ordered and the number of total pills to get for the duration of the medication. Calculating dosages can be a little more challenging when it comes to administering medication intravenously. If the doctor’s order is to give 7.5 mg, the nurse cannot just draw 7.5 mg when the vial is labeled “5 mg per cc.”
The nurse must know the formulas related to making these changes by heart since the medications must be administered accurately. Underdosing can delay or prevent the full recovery of a patient while overdosing can potentially be fatal. The nurse must put a premium on accuracy so knowing how to make these calculations is essential.
Nurses also use math in order to properly determine the drip rate of IV fluid. If the doctor wants the patient to receive “1,000 cc every 6 hours” and the IV fluid bag is 1,000 cc then the nurse will have to calculate how fast the drip rate should be so that the entire bag will be consumed within the set time period and the time when the bag should be changed. If there is medication that needs to be administered through the IV line within a particular time frame, the nurse also needs to make the necessary computation so as to ensure that the medication is given at the proper rate.
Nurses who have received special training may also perform advanced mathematical calculations in a process known as drug titration. Instead of giving a set dosage for a patient, titration is when the doctor orders that sensitive medication be given at what is known as a dosage infusion rate range. This entails looking at various factors, like the patient’s urinary output or glucose reading before giving the correct medication dosage, and then making the necessary adjustments when the desired response has been achieved. Titration is usually used by nurses working in the hospital’s intensive care units.