Sometimes, dosage calculations are what people are afraid of the most, even more so than regular nursing exams! In some schools, you can’t continue your nursing program if you don’t get 100% on your dosage calculation exams. That really puts on the pressure. Here are some tips for relieving that anxiety.
Write All Your Steps Down. Some problems require some extra steps: converting liters to milliliters, hours to seconds, and vice versa. Write every step down. These are the things that are easy to forget, and students stumble on these “little steps” more than they have difficulty with the problem itself.
Know Your Conversions. Know the relationships between ounces, milliliters, tablespoons, and teaspoons. Be sure you’re comfortable with converting within the metric system as well (40mL is 0.04 Liters, for example.) Use the old trick of moving the decimal point over three spaces to make it easy.
Avoid Overconfidence. I can’t remember all the times in math class where I made a “stupid mistake.” Your brain just skips and you calculate something wrong that should be easy. Prevent this from happening by using a calculator, or solving each step on paper. No matter how simple a step is, make sure the whole process you used to arrive at your answer is ironclad by being careful.
Be Aware of the Rounding Rules. This is a tricky one. There are rules to rounding answers, and teachers aren’t always consistent across the nursing industry. Make sure you are sure of what your teacher expects when it comes to rounding, so you don’t have to argue after the fact (it happens a lot!).
Pay special attention to rounding drip rates: some teachers want you to round down no matter what to err on the slow side of infusing, and other teachers continue as normal. The best rule is this: confirm with your teacher before you begin about their rules for rounding.
Use ‘Common Sense.’ Before you put an answer down, the last step you should always take is to ask yourself: does this answer make sense? If the question is asking about a bolus infusion (which usually is a large infusion) and your number is 150mL, that just doesn’t make sense! Time to take a second look at your calculations.