Monday, March 20, 2006

I gave a pill today

I gave my first medication today.

Before we students are allowed to dispense meds, we have to pass a test on basic math, unit conversions, and medical abbreviations. The math is pretty easy. The most difficult concept is when the prescription for an injected medication is for 15 mg and the vial that you have is 5 mg/mL. So, you do the math and draw up 3 mL. Sometimes it’s a little more complicated than that, but it’s just multiplication and division.

Unit conversions are more difficult because it’s just brute memorization. 1 ounce is 30 mL. 1 teaspoon is 5 mL. 1 grain is 15 mg. What’s a grain? It’s a unit of measure from the apothecary system, it doesn’t actually mean a grain as in rice, it’s anachronistic, and we’re all a little miffed that we have to learn it because some older doctors are fond of it for whatever reason.

Medical abbreviations also require memorization. Many of them make sense, especially if you know Latin, like s/p is status post (status after a procedure or some such) and PO is per oralis (by mouth). Others are less clear, like PRN (as needed). I did okay on that part, except for when I defined ac as before breakfast when it really means before before meals. No duh stoopid.

The last requirement for us to give meds is to review the medications with our clinical instructors before giving them. Mostly without prompting, we’re supposed to be able to name the drug, its functional class, indications (why it’s prescribed for this particular patient), common and life-threatening side effects, significant drug interactions, and nursing implications (checking blood pressure or lab values before administering, teaching patients about precautions, etc.). It’s really not that difficult and I feel much more socially useful learning that stuff than being able to say, break down a film script or convincingly dub in sound effects.

Anyway, I gave my patient a pain pill today. Some of my fellow students who gave meds said they felt like real nurses for the first time today. I didn't feel that way, but it was still damn cool.

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