Students enrolled in the licensed practical nursing program must complete a minimum number required pharmacology classes, or credit hours, based on the program requirements. Pharmacology, or the science explaining how chemical agents and drugs affect biological systems, teaches practical nurses how to safely administer medication ordered by a physician.
The first principal of practical nursing pharmacology is basic pharmacology, which includes the definition of pharmacology, pharmacokinetics, or how drugs move through the body and the metabolic process, and pharmacodynamics, or the breakdown of drugs in the body, and drug classifications. Drug names, including both the generic and brand names, are also included in basic pharmacology. Practical nurses learn to read drug labels and locate the necessary information, such as the drug name, dosage and preparation instructions, as well.
Drugs are generally prepackaged by the pharmacy and may not be available in the exact dosage ordered by the physician. Therefore, a practical nurse who administers medication must be able to accurately perform dosage calculations. This includes converting dosages from one unit of measure to another, such as grains to milligrams. For instance, if a physician orders 300 milligrams of a medication and the pharmacy has grains 50 available, the practical nurse must perform the calculation to determine the correct dosage.
Pharmacology is not only about the types of drugs available but also how to administer them. The two basic methods are parenteral and non-parenteral administration. Parenteral medications do not go through the digestive tract and include intramuscular, subcutaneous and intravenous administration. Non-parenteral medications, on the other hand, pass through the digestive tract via the mouth or a feeding tube. Pharmacology for practical nurses includes the training required for administering drugs via both methods. This includes landmarks, maximum dosages and needle sizes for injections.
Practical nurses must understand how the drug reacts, possible side effects, contraindications, cautions, nursing implications and patient educational needs, according to the Metropolitan Community College website. Although a physician orders the medication, the practical nurse must check the order for errors and contact him if any discrepancies are found. For instance, if a patient is taking a cholesterol medication and the doctor orders another cholesterol drug, the practical nurse should contact him and verify the order.
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