Quick Tips for Dosage Calculations in Nursing School

I know you hate dosage calculations, so you don’t have to lie to me. But don’t worry! It IS possible to make it easier, and even <gasp> more fun!

Trust me, this is what one of my Group Tutoring Membership students posted in our tutoring forums:

And you know what? She was just like you. Which means that YOU can learn to be “giddy” about dosage calcs, too.

This article alone won’t make you giddy, but it’s the first 2 things you need to get on the path to dosage calc success. But first…here’s a bonus tip…

First Things First: Ditch the Formula Method

If formula method is working well for you, then ignore me, stop reading this article, and go on your way. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

But if you’re still reading, then I’m guessing that formula method does NOT always work for you. That’s pretty typical, if though it’s the most common method of solving dosage calculations taught in nursing school (unfortunately).

And even if formula method starts out working for you, say for some of the easier problem types like ‘how many pills’ or IM injections…it’s only going to get harder as you go.

What about for weight-based calculations? It’s really easy for formula method to fail you, especially if you don’t feel strong at math. And especially if you have to figure out how to do multiple conversions before you can even start using your formula. It’s like a worst-case scenario for people who don’t like math.

Which is why I always recommend Dimensional Analysis. If you’re interested in learning Dimensional Analysis from me, then you can join the Group Tutoring Membership so I can support you. But either way, here’s 2 tips that you need to understand no matter which dosage calculation method you choose to use.

The Buddy System: 2/2 = 1

The buddy system isn’t rocket science, so don’t overthink it. It takes advantage of a very basic math concept, and let’s you use it to your advantage when you solve problems dosage calc. I call it the buddy method, because in the dimensional analysis method I teach, I’ve already figured out math concepts so that you don’t have to think about them. Here’s an explanation

  • If I write this fraction: 2/2, then what is it equal to?
  • If you said 1, you are correct! Any number divided by itself is equal to 1 (that’s the fancy math concept, btw)
  • But what if I flip flop that fraction? What if I move the bottom 2 to the top, and the top 2 to the bottom? Then the fraction will be 2/2, what is it equal to now?
  • Still equal to 1! Of course.

This example was probably pretty easy and obvious to you. But now let me show you how powerful this simple concept can be when you need to do dosage calculations or conversions.

Conversion Factors in Halloween Costumes (aka Why the Buddy System is useful)

Did you know that every single conversion factor you memorize follows the buddy system? I know it doesn’t LOOK like they do, but it’s true! And I’ll prove it to you.

(And yes, you DO need to memorize those standard conversion factors…here’s a free cheatsheet that lists the most common dosage calc conversion factors you need to know, plus a free practice plan to help you overcome your fear of dosage calculations)

Let’s take a common conversion factor like 1000ml = 1L, and ask the Buddy System question similar to how we did in the 2/2 fraction example above.

  • If I have 1000mL of fluid, do I have 1L of fluid?
  • The answer is yes! Because it’s both the same amount of fluid, just a different way of labeling it.
  • And let’s ask it in reverse…if I have 1L of fluid, do I have 1000mL of fluid?
  • Yes!

Therefore, 1000mL and 1L are the same…even though they don’t LOOK the same. They don’t look the same because they are wearing Halloween costumes! One costume is ‘mL’ and the other costume is ‘L’.

This is a super important math concept to grasp, and will make using dimensional analysis for dosage calculations so much easier to set-up when you understand it. Because the numbers aren’t important. They’re just along for the ride. It’s the HALLOWEEN COSTUMES (the ‘mL’ and the ‘L’) that are the most important to keep track of when you’re solving a problem.

That is great news, because it means that success in dosage calculations doesn’t depend on how good you are at math. The trickier part is learning how to set-up the problem, and when you know the buddy system, it can make it easier to plug-in your conversion factors.

Final Thoughts: You’ve Got This!

Don’t be intimidated by dosage calculations. Now that I’ve taught you these 2 tips, you don’t know how to solve dosage calculations (yet!) but you’re well on your way to being able to correctly set them up using dimensional analysis. If you want to continue learning the rest of the easy rules to follow, you can learn in my Group Tutoring Membership. It includes my on-demand Dosage Calculations class plus 40+ practice problems with video solutions PLUS access to weekly group tutoring sessions AND a forum where you can post questions anytime you get stuck to receive guaranteed help.

Not ready to join the membership? Then make sure to get your free Dosage Calculations Practice Plan, which includes the required conversion factors you need to memorize in order to be prepared to ace dosage calculations.

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