Whether studying to become a registered or a practical nurse, all students must know the names, classifications and side effects of more than 250 drugs---a knowledge base called pharmacology. The National Council Licensure Examination, a test all nursing students must pass, includes five to 11 percent pharmacology questions. It's no wonder nursing students report pharmacology as one of the most daunting aspects of their studies. With knowledge and preparation, you can approach the NCLEX pharmacology section with confidence.
Study by Drug Family and Class
Drugs are organized into families and classes. The drugs within these groups share characteristics and, often, word structure. For example, many drugs ending in "-udin" are thrombin inhibitors. Memorizing the nursing responsibilities, indications, contraindications, client teaching and adverse effects of these classifications, rather than each drug, narrows the scope of what you must retain. On the NCLEX, you're likely to encounter a drug you don't know, but if you recognize its suffix class, this knowledge is likely to lead you to the correct answer.
Focus on Your Weaknesses
While studying, you'll find that memorizing characteristics of certain drug classes and families is harder for you. These might be less commonly used medications or medications you have not encountered in the clinicals for your nursing type. Identify these problem areas as soon as possible, and intensify your strategies for studying them. If you're using note cards, set these groups aside and plan to go over them twice as often as the less difficult families.
Calculation Methods and Injections
You might encounter a medication or IV calculation question on the NCLEX. There are many methods for completing these calculations, such as ratio and proportion, fractional equation and intravenous flow rate calculation. You should understand all the basic methods, but choose the one you find most intuitive and perfect it. Know basic injection details, such as whether aspiration is recommended or what is the preferred injection site for certain medications.
Set a Schedule
Once you've registered for the NCLEX or determined the month in which you plan to take it, plot out your pharmacology study schedule on a calendar. Take into account any time you'll spend in class, working, doing clinicals or studying other NCLEX areas. Divide the total number of study hours you have by the number of drug classes and families you must study. If you're aware of them in advance, allot more time for those areas you know will be more difficult.