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Calculating Dosages

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Nurses routinely use addition, fractions, ratios and algebraic equations each workday to deliver the right amount of medication to their patients or monitor changes in their health. Nursing schools often test new students on their mathematical prowess, requiring a remedial course in medical math if necessary. Even in state-of-the-art medical facilities, successful nurses must have sharp mathematical skills.
Calculating Dosages-Nurses with an order to "Give 750 mg every 4 hours as needed for pain" may receive 250 mg tablets from the pharmacy, requiring them to calculate the number of pills to administer. They also need to calculate the amount of medicine to give when drawing up liquid medicine for injection. An order to give 7.5 mg must be compared to the vial, which states, "5 mg per cc." Some medication orders require the nurse to calculate the dosage based on the patient's weight.
Converting Between Systems-Most Americans think in terms of household or apothecary measurements: pounds, ounces, Fahrenheit
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An order may read, "Give 1,000 cc every 8 hours," necessitating a calculation of the proper drip rate. A small bag of antibiotic medicine may have an instruction to "Give 500 mg over 30 minutes." When IV medicine must be given without an electric pump, the nurse must calculate the correct number of drops per minute to administer.
Drug Titration-Certain drugs are titrated, meaning that the dose varies according to parameters set by the physician or protocol. In the intensive-care unit, a patient may need a varying amount of intravenous drug that is calculated by factoring in his urinary output per hour, for example. Insulin may be titrated depending on the patient's ever-changing blood-glucose reading. Drug titration requires the nurse's full concentration on her mathematical skills and is often limited to nurses with special training or
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