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The importance of pharmacology in nursing

Photo: The importance of pharmacology in nursing
All around the world, registered nurses play an important role in administering medication to patients in a typical busy hospital environment. This duty requires a huge amount of effort on behalf of nurses to have a solid understanding of pharmacology and potentially fatal drug interactions.

Administrating medication

The nursing and midwifery board which regulate the practice of nurses in Australia states that enrolled nurses are only allowed to administer medication if their medication administration education is completed. Enrolled nurses who have not completed this education will have a notation on their register. It is expected these nurses will have the competence and confidence to administer the medication safely, no matter when the education was completed (1).
There are six rights of medication administration that nurses need to refer to before they give the patient their medicine (2);

  • Right Drug: double check the prescription, medication and expiry date on the medicine.
  • Right Patient: confirm the patient by a minimum of two identifiers, such as their name and date of birth. Also ensure they have an understanding of what the medication is and any possible side effects.
  • Right Dosage: confirm the dosage using a current drug reference. If unconfirmed, then calculate the dosage and double check with another nurse or doctor.
  • Right Time: confirm how often the medicine is to be administered and check with the patient when they had their last dosage.
  • Right Route: ensure the appropriateness of the route ordered and whether the patient can receive the medication from this route.
  • Right Documentation: document the administration of the medication as soon as it has been administered. Using professional clinical software can guarantee consistency.

Nurses also need to keep in mind what potential drug interactions can occur. A drug interaction is where two or multiple medicines react with one another causing unexpected side effects in the patient. There is multiple drug interaction checker software available online if the nurse administering is ever unsure of the after-effects. Nurses should also speak to a doctor or pharmacist if they feel a combination of medicines is incorrect.

Improving knowledge of medication

Nurses face numerous problems during the medication administration process, such as prescriptions coming across as equivocal, issues with computer technologies, medications being incompatible or unavailable, and multiple generic substitutions available which can cause confusion. Alongside this, nurses face having to administer medication in a busy environment full of disruptions and distractions, which is evidence that more support and training is required (3).

As a health care provider, nurses have a duty to stay updated about medical advancements and pharmaceutical drugs. Improving knowledge about medication requires action from nurses, such as (4);

  • Continue with education, with short courses that also provide contact hours and receive a Continuing Education Unit (CEU).
  • Study drug information which can be accessed online and outlines precautions, side effects, interactions, dosage instructions, potential diagnoses a nurse can make and teachings for patients and carers.
  • Access practice resources, such as practice guidelines and legal information, as well as text books which cover drug information, nursing skills in communication, and critical thinking.
  • Increase their CPD hours, study online about drug interactions and administering medication successfully.
  • Attend seminars aimed at nurses to update them about medicines.


  1. Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia
  2. APNA
  3. Hindawi
  4. EBSCO


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