The nursing profession encompasses a wide range of responsibilities – from taking care of individuals/patients to the education and promotion of health practices, management of health policies, and research activities, to name a few of them.
Basically, the word ‘nurse’ has gotten its root from the Latin word ‘nutritious,’ meaning ‘someone (a person) who nourishes.’ In its very general definition, a ‘nurse’ is a person who is authorized to practice nursing after completion of the basic nursing education and training.
The fundamental purpose of this is the preparation of nursing students and professionals in such a way to build their foundation in a wide spectrum of responsibilities that can go from general to advanced nursing practices.
General practice nurses’ main and common responsibilities include working and collaborating with primary healthcare teams for patient care, performing diagnostics tests, administering medications, and educating patients about disease management. Nursing care assistants and patient care technicians also perform similar roles such as taking care of the patient’s comfort and dietary restrictions.
In accord with these roles, the advanced practice nurses perform additional functions, including differential diagnoses, interpreting results of lab tests, and performing physical and psychological tests and diagnostics.
Typically, candidates enrolled in registered nurses take the following common courses: microbiology, anatomy, nutrition, chemistry, physiology, psychology, gerontology, bioethics, nursing theory, and practice, apart from the advanced courses.
Among these, chemistry holds its special place because of its high relevance to the medical field and anything surrounding life. Moreover, chemistry goes hand in hand with anything that happens in the body – from the sub-cellular level to performing the movements as I type this text and control our emotions and behavior.
What comes under this branch of chemistry if looked at with respect to nursing?
As this field relies on critical thinking combined with good practical expertise, the chemistry courses can be further broken down into some general branches, which are essential across various nursing programs.
These are general and organic chemistry, biochemistry, and pharmacology. These are to build the basic foundations of chemistry and comprehend the subjects for implementation in practice and real life.
For example, while general chemistry gives knowledge of the chemical composition of the world that surrounds us, organic chemistry is more focused on the carbon-containing compounds which constitute organic matter and hence its usefulness for nursing students.
Focusing more on pharmacology is an advanced level course focused on medicines, their interaction with other salts, and within the body. This is a significant branch of chemistry, enabling nursing students and professionals to learn their effects on the body, how medicines affect and alter diseases, and the study of adverse reactions in the body leading to allergies and other complications that might arise.
When someone talks about the importance of chemistry in nursing, it means the importance of pharmacology in the literal sense. Besides understanding drugs and their effects on the body, a precise knowledge of the right dosage and conditions which do not necessitate drug administration is also important.
Let’s look at some examples of how a lack of knowledge of chemistry can lead to serious consequences in patients, including reduced and unwanted effects. As one example, when NSAID and Marcumar are simultaneously administered, they show an additive interaction leading to the enhanced effect of both the drugs.
Quite contrastingly, aspirin and ibuprofen show antagonistic interactions resulting in reduced efficacy of both when simultaneous administration is done. Therefore, systematic knowledge of the medicine’s chemistry, metabolism, and interactions could help prevent their adverse side effects.
Besides drug-drug interactions, it is also important for nurses to know and understand the chemistry of medicine food / medicine-beverage interactions.
For example, some vitamins, proteins, iron pills, and antacids can interact with common foods, thereby interfering. Similarly, the efficacy of drugs is affected when taken along with some beverages.
An example includes slow reactions and tiredness felt by a person mixing and taking medications with alcoholic beverages. In this respect, proper guidance to patients can come only if the nurses are educated well about these complicated chemistries.
What are the challenges faced by nursing students in learning chemistry?
As much as a good and practical knowledge of chemistry with its implications is necessary, it is also equally important to facilitate the acquisition of chemistry knowledge. One challenge for nurses is the thinking of the students that they cannot learn chemistry, this being an especial case for students with a nonscience background.
Therefore, efforts must be put into creating motivational and interacting learning environments. This would help ease the acquiring of knowledge, but an interacting environment will help others motivate in coping with the competition.
Nurses hold an integral place in society and are an important part of our health care system. While chemistry education is of prime importance in training a good practitioner nurse, making this education easy for them is of equal status.
By this, the gap between the chemistry concepts and their application in practice can be overcome, which is the current demand of the hour.
Jeannie has achieved her Master’s degree in science and technology and is further pursuing a Ph.D. She desires to provide you the validated knowledge about science, technology, and the environment through writing articles.