How Do Nurses Use Math?

How do nurses use math

Every time you visit a hospital, you’ll find numbers – recording weight, blood pressure, temperature, etc.

Doctors often talk about compounds like iron, the right mix of red blood cells, protein levels, and so on.

The truth is, that the field of medicine goes hand in hand with math. So, how do nurses use math?

Nurses routinely use fractions, additions, and algebraic expressions to deliver proper medication to their patients.

Not to mention, nursing schools will always test your mathematical prowess.

But you don’t need to be a math wizard – just a basic understanding of math.

The electrolytes and standard values of blood components should be understood by nurses.

Nurses collect, interpret data, and carry out statistical analyses.

These professionals must have the basic skills to add, subtract, divide, etc.

Additionally, nurses use math to measure vital signs like heart rate and breathing rate.

Every time doctors give specific medication, nurses must apply basic mathematics without relying on other medical professionals.

The most critical skills for nurses are doing fractions and converting decimals to percentages.

Sometimes, these professionals need to calculate the body’s surface area. To ensure the safety of patients, there should be no errors in calculations.

In summary, nurses won’t need anything more than:

  • Basic arithmetic
  • Fractions and percentages
  • Measurements and conversions

Experienced nurses use math in every part of their job, only that they don’t realize it.

This post will look at the critical areas of applying mathematics in nursing.

How Is Math Used in Nursing

Calculating dosages

Doctors can order nurses to give patients different dosages (250mg, 500mg, 750mg, etc.).

As they administer liquid medicine, they calculate the right amount of injection.

In some isolated cases, nurses administer dosages that match the patient’s weight.

Some drugs are limited to specific concentrations.

That said, you should figure out the strength before you use a formula.

A good example is giving 80mg dosage to patients that come in 20mg tablets. In this case, the patient requires four tablets.

Nurses are responsible for advising patients on how to calculate medications once they get home.

A broad comprehension of the metric system helps to calculate the amount you need to give a patient.

Calculating IV drip rates

If a doctor prescribes 1000cc or 500mg every few hours, nurses must do the calculation.

If the injection is given without an electric pump, nurses should calculate the drops per minute.

In intravenous therapy, you should calculate the fluid rate (ml/hr.).

If a patient needs a subcutaneous injection, too little can be ineffective.

Drug titration

The dosage of certain drugs must be titrated as per the physician’s protocol.

Additionally, patients in the intensive care unit need a specific amount while figuring out the output every hour.

On the other hand, insulin must also be titrated, depending on the glucose reading.

That said, drug titration requires specific mathematical skills and experience.

Converting between systems

Nurses should know how to calculate ounces, pounds, temperature, Fahrenheit to Celsius, ounces to cubic centimeters, etc.

The measurements in medicine require conversion skills.

To provide safe care, nurses must know how to make calculations.

Some medicines must be mixed before being administered.

For this reason, the ratios should be calculated well. And before you apply the dosage, you should review a few concepts.

Other uses

Nurses must calculate the input and output of patients.

This means you add the cubic centimeters of the fluids taken and the number of calories consumed daily.

Depending on the nurse’s specialty, nurses should calculate the body mass index, ovulation dates, and glycemic index.

Sometimes, nurses use fractions, decimals, Roman numerals, and conversion tables.

See also: How to Get Over Fear of Needles as a Nurse

What Type of Math Do Nurses Use?

Nurses should understand basic mathematics like multiplication, addition, subtraction, and division.

In addition to that, these professionals should know how to:

  • Work time calculations
  • Understand measurements such as the conversion of grams to milligrams
  • Calculate the drop rates
  • Convert decimals to percentages like percentages
  • Use formulas to calculate the dosage

Decimal placement is important when administering medications. If you place it in the wrong place, you may end up giving ten times the dosage.

Conclusion: How Do Nurses Use Math?

In a nutshell, math plays a key role in nursing.

It helps to analyze clinical data and design nursing care plans.

Nurses should know how to calculate the doses of solutions, tablets, and IV fluids.

And when it comes to research and development, the importance of math cannot be overemphasized.

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About Ida Koivisto, BSN, RN, PHN

Ida is both a registered nurse and public health nurse. Her passion is to provide as much valuable information about nursing to the world as possible. In her spare time from work and blogging, Ida loves to work out at the gym and spend time with relatives.