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Chemistry Topics Important for Nursing Students

by Kate Prudchenko, studioD

Nursing is a field that requires critical thinking and practical expertise. In order to develop these skills, nursing programs require students to take a number of general education courses. These courses include subjects such as history, culture, mathematics and chemistry. The types of chemistry courses that nursing students must take vary across programs, but many require students to take course in general chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry and pharmacology.

General Chemistry

Nursing programs require students to take general chemistry to develop their understanding of the elements that make up our world and prepare them for upper-level nursing courses. This course is typically two semesters long and includes both lecture and laboratory components, introducing students to the theoretical and the practical aspects of chemistry. Most introductory chemistry courses cover topics such as the periodic table of elements, states of matter, thermochemistry, bonds and chemical equations.

Organic Chemistry

Nursing students are typically required to take one or two semesters organic chemistry with a laboratory section. General chemistry is a prerequisite because organic chemistry focuses on a specific type of matter that contains carbon atoms. In particular, it is the study of the structure and properties of organic compounds and organic molecules. Organic chemistry is useful for nursing students because they work almost exclusively with organic matter. In this class, students learn about the properties and behavior of organic matter as well as its chemical reactivity.


Biochemistry is the study of chemical processes that take place within the living body and focuses on topics such as proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, nucleic acids and metabolism. Biochemistry comes with a laboratory section that gives nursing students additional experience in performing chemical research. Two common prerequisites for biochemistry are general chemistry and an introductory class in biology. Nursing students often take this course concurrently with organic chemistry.


Pharmacology is an advanced upper-level course that focuses on drugs and drug interactions. This course is particularly important for nursing students because their work requires them to dispense medication to patients. In pharmacology, students learn the effects of both synthetic and natural drugs on the body and how drugs alter the disease process. General chemistry is a common prerequisite for pharmacology, but many programs also require students to take organic chemistry prior to taking pharmacology.

About the Author

Kate Prudchenko has been a writer and editor for five years, publishing peer-reviewed articles, essays, and book chapters in a variety of publications including Immersive Environments: Future Trends in Education and Contemporary Literary Review India. She has a BA and MS in Mathematics, MA in English/Writing, and is completing a PhD in Education.

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