Pharmacology… The most dreaded paper of them all

Sophie Fisher Sophie Fisher / Wellington campusLeave a Comment


I was always a little fearful of all the science papers we have to take when you are studying for a Bachelor of Nursing, but I have been surprised up until now, that I actually understood it all – I think giving it a nursing perspective makes it easier than general high school biology. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still not a natural at sciences, and it takes a lot of study for it to all sink into my brain, but it eventually has and I’ve passed all my papers, with grades I’m pretty happy with (if not very surprised at).

That was until this semester, when I walked into my first pharmacology lecture.  I’d skimmed the material before I got to class, and thought to myself it seemed really interesting, if not a bit complex. But nothing prepared me for the blank look I would assume the minute cholinergic receptors and agonist and antagonist medications were mentioned…. I don’t think I’d ever been so mystified in my entire nursing degree; I was lost at slide one.

I left that class, thinking that I had to quickly develop a plan to help me learn everything I needed to know before the exam. We all descended on the university bookshop and bought up all the index cards, exercise books and ring binders available, print requests for all the resources on stream were sent and with that we were prepared for some serious studying– pharmacology requires some very serious dedication.

In the weeks since this, I have made what feels like a million flash cards, and cheat sheets. But for the mid semester test the most helpful thing was creating a mega spread sheet of the medications we need to learn.

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As you can see, my mad organiser came out once again – I colour coordinated every category so all the drugs from each class had the same colour, and then added in information such as  type of receptor, mechanism of action and the purpose of the drug. This helped me immensely as it was a format that made sense for me.

Another handy hint – the study guides are the bible of all things pharmacology, print request them, bind them – sleep with them under your pillow (who knows you may absorb some information via osmosis while you sleep), but in all seriousness these guides make the information easier to learn and retain which is a life saver!


As with anything, you need to find what works for you – mindmaps are also a life saver in pharmacology – but once you have your preferred method stick with it, and try your best to stay up to date, trust me its take a lot of time to catch up again once you get a bit behind!

As you will all be aware, exams aren’t upon us yet, so it is still up to the universe whether I somehow pass this paper, I sure hope I can remember the endless list of medications we need to know. I will keep you posted on whether all my index cards and spread sheets were a success!

Sophie Fisher

Sophie Fisher

Hi, I’m Sophie and I’m a second year Nursing student at Massey’s Wellington Campus. I’m in my early twenties, and have come to nursing a bit later, as I had an interesting start completing a Bachelor of Arts in Politics, International Relations and Geography (although I can’t navigate a map…). I am originally from Masterton, and in my spare time, which is not very often, I like to go to the gym, walk at the beach near my flat, and go out with friends for dinner and drinks. When I can, I love to head home and get out of the busy city life. I look forward to sharing my thoughts on university life and everything I have learnt from my few years as a student!