What Are You Struggling With?

Ep169: 12 Tips to Answering Any Pharmacology Question

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Pharmacology is one of the subjects that more students struggle with than anything else.  To conquer pharmacology it is important to have a plan.  This episode provides 12 easy to implement tips to answering any pharmacology question.

These strategies come from our online Pharmacology Course 

  1. Patient Safety
    • The NCLEX® is concerned about if you will be a SAFE nurse. Always think about what option will lead to your patient being safe. You can automatically exclude options that will put your patient in harm.
  2. Focus on Side Effects
    • Learn the top 3 side effects with major medication classes. If you know the class and the major side effects associated with that class you greatly increase your chances of answering correctly.
  3. ABCs
    • Airway, Breathing, Circulation. The ABCs will never go away. Focus on the nursing process and the ABCs with each and every question including side effects.
  4. Prefixes and Suffixes
    • Learn the most common prefixes and suffixes. This will cut down your total study time tremendously.
  5. Look for Patient Clues
    • Does the question provide information about the patients original diagnosis? Use general clues in the question about the patient, their history, and their condition. These clues will guide you to the medications they will be taking.
  6. General Patient Reaction
    • Look for clues in the patients reaction. For example if the patient reports dizziness, this is a clue that you should assess blood pressure. Use your assessment skills to answer pharmacology questions.
  7. Generic
    • Only generic names will be used on the actual NCLEX®. Although these names can be a bit harder to pronounce, they will provide clues (prefix/suffix) into the type of medication it is which will guide you in choosing the correct answer.
  8. Random, Random, Random
    • Regardless of how much you study . . . you will get that insanely random medication that no one has ever heard of. In this case just take a deep breath, relax, and use your nursing judgment, critical thinking, and think Patient Safety.
  9. Medical Diagnosis
    • Does the question identify a medical diagnosis? If you have a working medical diagnosis, use your knowledge to determine what signs and symptoms the patient will have, what medications they will require to manage those symptoms, and what are the main side effects of those medications.
  10. Freebies
    • If you are already familiar with the medication . . . simply use your knowledge, the nursing process, and critical thinking to answer the question.
  11. Med Classes
    • Learn to recognize common side effects with major medication classes and the appropriate nursing intervention for each of these side effects.
  12. Why is the Medication Given?
    • Why is the medication being given. Try to identify a relationship between the medication and the patients diagnosis. If you have the underlying diagnosis you can generally identify what medication will be given for that condition.

Date Published - Jan 20, 2016
Date Modified - Jun 20, 2019

Jon Haws RN

Written by Jon Haws RN

Jon Haws RN began his nursing career at a Level I Trauma ICU in DFW working as a code team nurse, charge nurse, and preceptor. Frustrated with the nursing education process, Jon started NRSNG in 2014 with a desire to provide tools and confidence to nursing students around the globe. When he's not busting out content for NRSNG, Jon enjoys spending time with his two kids and wife.


  1. Avatar

    Karin Bielefeld

    Even though I am an RN, who sat boards a long time ago, your site and study guides are great reminders, and reinforce the basics and not so basics of good Nursing. Thank you so much for your dedication and assistance to all out here.

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    Patti LeBlanc

    How do you pause these episodes?

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    I’m supposed to be taking a well-deserved rest from studying whilst on holiday for a few weeks before my final semester, but instead of doing some ‘light reading’ to relax and unwind with hubby, I find myself riveted to going through all my cheat sheets, which I find relax me more…….just read the hyper/hypo/isotonic solutions sheet which has always perplexed me – now I understand perfectly, am feeling pleased with myself and know I won’t stress over that again. How relaxed am I now? Haha… if only my hubby looked over and saw what I was doing….. sshhhh…. thanks so much for all the info – everything is so much easier to understand and my confidence has increased ten-fold. Happy New Year to one and all at NRSNG!

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    Alice Dejean

    You are amazing and such a great help on this difficult journey. I always look forward to new information from you especially the Friday freebies ! I have the clipboard tool box, book of labs and mnemonics. Can’t get enough!

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    One of the best show I had tuned in.

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    Thanks so much really it’s very helpful

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    Everything that you put out there has been a big help Jon! Thank you!
    Customer service is great too. I had few questions with log in and help was so quick. Your site shows your passion for the students. Again thank you!

    • Jon Haws

      Jon Haws

      Thanks so much for saying that! I know Sandi and the other ladies work hard to make sure everything flows smoothly from a customer service standpoint!

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    Madhuwattie Parsam

    You’re amazing…thank you for sharing all your knowledge and actually caring about nursing students… your support is greatly appreciated.

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    Extremely helpful, will share with my students and credit you.

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    I had your 3 books Jon, I ordered it in amazon..I know it would be a big helped to me. Thanks so much..

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    Nene M

    All these tips are so helpful, thank you so much!!!

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    Great material and VERY helpful

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    everything is very helpful…thanks