Pharmacology Nursing Courses – What You Need to Know

Most any nurse or nursing student will tell you – pharmacology courses in nursing school can seem intimidating. There is a lot of information to commit to memory, including drug facts, side effects, indications and counter indications just to name a few. But for all the hype surrounding pharmacology classes, is there any truth to the tales?

Chamberlain College of Nursing professor Kathy Barton MSN, RN teaches Chamberlain’s offerings of pharmacology courses, NR291 and NR292, or pharm one and pharm two as they’re known to students and faculty. She emphasized that pharmacology is an essential topic for nursing personnel, because they are the last hands that touch the medications before the patient gets them.

She also noted that the courses are all about time.

“Pharmacology has always been and will remain a course where the students have to devote time. They have to read ahead of time and review the slides before class. If they don’t devote the time, they can struggle with the course.”

But why does pharmacology require such a time commitment? Barton offered insight into the courses themselves.

“Pharm one and pharm two focus on the same content, but pharm one offers introductory content which describes the terminology and nursing implications. And pharm two addresses some of the more difficult, yet essential drugs for a nursing student to understand.” Beyond those distinctions, both courses focus on the actual study of medications. The topics covered for any given drug include:

  • Drug facts
  • Side effects
  • Why are they given?
  • To whom are they given?
  • Indications and counter-indications
  • What care should be exercised for any given patient?
    • Are there age considerations?
    • Pregnant?
    • On other types of medications?


Barton added that the courses themselves are set up in a traditional format and feature activities to keep students engaged with the content. “This may be a content-laden course, but it’s also a building block course. All of our courses are built one upon the other. So to encourage interaction, we incorporate games to add an element of fun.”

To avoid stressing over exams, Barton advocated that students be proactive in asking questions while in class. “I tell my students all the time that if they aren’t sure of a concept or a definition, they should reach out to me or just ask in class. There’s never such a thing as a stupid question.”

For any students interested in extra help, Barton said she always makes herself available for remediation sessions with students and conducts review sessions before exams. She also recommended students utilize Chamberlain resources such as the Center for Academic Success (CAS), where they can go in for tutoring, or to form a study group to learn from their fellow students.

Barton’s parting thought was for students to take pharmacology seriously. “It can be intimidating, but when you’re serious and come prepared, you’re going to succeed.”

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