Pharmacology – yes, it’s that time.
Students of pharmacy, nursing and medicine know exactly what I mean.
Pharmacology is the demon subject; the medicinal grim reaper who slashes your grades when you thought you’d safely “made it” across the line. Just when you thought you’d cracked the subject, your confidence is knocked aback by a dismal exam performance.
All is not lost though.
If you’re one of those students wondering how to study pharmacology; how to maximize both your study time and your grades – you’ve come to the right place. Today, we provide you with the ultimate student guide on studying pharmacology the right way.
No more poor grades. No more excuses. No more stress.
Let’s get started.
Starting out in pharmacology is tough.
On the face of it, there appears to be no structure. Instead, students are blasted with an unforgiving, interminable blizzard of detail.
Hundreds of drugs, thousands of side effects, millions of drug interactions!
Where does the madness end?
Knowing how to study pharmacology effectively is about building structure into your study. It’s about knowing what to learn and what to leave out. If you don’t apply this fundamental strategy, you waste time learning information that you don’t need to know.
Take antibacterial drugs, for example. There are well over eighteen classes – and many more lone drugs which aren’t “classified” in any appreciable way. Taking a “drug-by-drug” approach doesn’t work. You don’t need to learn side effects that are non-specific, such as nausea and vomiting, because those side effects are applicable to almost every drug! Take non-specific side effects as a given. Always begin by learning exceptions or side effects specific to a drug-drug class.
By being specific in what you learn, you cut out unnecessary and irrelevant detail.
Rather than learning pharmacology on a drug-by-drug basis, learn the subject on a class-by-class basis. Learning by class means you only need to learn one mechanism, one set of indications, one set of side effects and one set of drug interactions.
By losing sight of the bigger picture, you serve to:
Always consider drug prefixes and suffixes too – let’s consider beta-blockers:
|Examples||Bisoprolol, metoprolol, atenolol|
|Indications||Cardiac arrhythmia, heart attack prophylaxis|
|Mechanism||Block beta-1 receptors in cardiac muscle|
|Side effects||Dizziness, drowsiness, fatigue, trouble sleeping, numbness in hands and feet etc.|
|Cautions||May cause/worsen bronchospasm in asthmatic patients|
We’ve tabulated many of the primary facts about cardioselective beta blockers. Of course, not all information has been included. That’s because students of pharmacology must learn to “infer” detail from a drug class – a form of critical thinking that will aid your exam performance.
Again, try to avoid learning immeasurable levels of detail en masse.
Learn to condense your study into more manageable and inferable methods. Not only does this strategy reduce study time but it also enhances your critical thinking skills during MCQ and long-answer exams.
Being able to work out answers, from limited detail, is a skill that every healthcare professional should possess. It takes time, but it’s a skill worth developing.
Along with this strategy there are various other, no less significant ways, to improve how to study pharmacology. These include:
Knowing how to study pharmacology is not enough if you don’t appreciate its value.
Studying pharmacology is important!
As a healthcare professional – whether you study pharmacy, medicine or nursing – you need to have a comprehensive understanding of how drugs work. As we learned above, the subject of pharmacology underpins important daily decisions you make.
Knowing how to infer important clinical detail is important, too.
The more pharmacology you know, the greater your powers of inference become. You are then able to link together the various topics in pharmacology – linking a drug class with a system, with a specific side effect, with a specific interaction.
Your web of knowledge broadens more and more and more.
If you seek to become a competent, respected healthcare professional, you need to motivate yourself to study pharmacology. By appreciating pharmacology as a subject worth studying, it transforms the value of your study time. Effective study strategies are only effective if you want to learn the subject. Learning how to study pharmacology effectively is often down to how much the student is willing to learn the subject.
By staying motivated – your learning gets much, much easier!