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Dear nursing students: Know your math

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I remember when I was first starting nursing school. Whenever the pesky little word math was mentioned, it struck fear into virtually the entire classroom.

I quickly found out that math is not a nurse’s friend. I’m not sure why, it’s just been a very popular theme ever since that day and continues to be quite the conundrum. Nurses don’t like math. In fact, they loathe it.

Now, don’t get me wrong. There are a select few out there that like and (gasp) may even love math, but they are few and far between. I happen to be one of them.

This infinite hatred is what confuses me to no end. How can nurses and mathematics not get along? I’m not talking calculus, differential equations or other advanced mathematics–I am referring to basic algebra. The reality is, nurses need and use math every single day in one way, shape or form.

The basic nursing student must learn how to convert units of measurement, multiply fractions and calculate volume percentages. The entry-level new grad and eventual staff nurse must utilize weight-based infusion rates and lab value nomograms. The bachelor’s and master’s nurse must learn to calculate numerous statistical analyses as well as exponential calculation of predictive values for evidenced-based theory and management (the p-value is your friend).

As you can see, the math requirement goes on and on (do I even have to mention the amount of mathematics a CRNA must perform?).

The truth of the matter is, math never, ever, ever leaves a nurse’s repertoire. You may use it less or more depending on your choice of work environment and career path, but it will always be there.

The take home message here, folks? If you are a would-be, want-to-be, or soon-to-be nurse… you better know your math.

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