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If math isn’t your strong suit, can you still be a nurse? Many students who are considering nursing school wonder about this. Nurses need to be comfortable using numbers in their work and to complete the minimum required math classes in high school and college. However, most core classes in nursing are more closely related to science than to mathematics. You don’t have to love math in order to move forward with your goal of being a nurse, as long as you’re able to complete basic math requirements.
High School Requirements
Nurses must attain a high school diploma, so at the very least, you will need to complete any mandatory mathematics classes needed to graduate high school. Aspiring nurses should complete three or even four years of math during high school and should make sure that geometry and two years of algebra are included in their studies, according to The Houston Chronicle.
Keep in mind, too, that many science courses that you take, whether in high school or in college, have some math component as well. You will need to balance chemical equations in a chemistry class and use mathematical calculations in pharmacology.
Even for the most basic nursing programs, like Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) preparation programs, you will likely need at least basic high school math skills to pass an entrance or admissions examination. To make the cut for selective nursing school programs, you will most likely need a competitive score on the SAT or ACT examination, which include sections focused on mathematics.
Aspiring nurses need to work hard to get good grades in all high school classes, including math – or they may not have a high enough grade point average to get into nursing school.
Math Requirements in College Nursing Programs
The core courses required to earn a nursing degree most often include studies in biology, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, biology, chemistry, nutrition and psychology, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Clinical experiences are a required part of any nursing program, from basic practical nursing certificate programs to graduate programs in nursing. However, mathematics is one of the key nursing school requirements that are common across all nursing degree programs. Your math skills will also be tested in your core science programs.
What can you expect from math coursework in a nursing degree program? A 100-level college math course such as algebra is the most common requirement for prospective nurses. Some nursing programs require coursework in statistics and probability, as well. In some nursing degree programs, you may study specialized coursework in medical math.
In addition to mandatory math classes, math requirements in some nursing programs include tests or exams that students must complete in order to move forward with their education and clinical experiences. Students may be tested on subject matter such as how to convert units of measurement and the math needed to correctly administer medications and intravenous drips.
Often, the math classes required for a nursing degree program also serve the purpose of satisfying university-wide general education mathematics requirements.
How Nurses Use Math in Their Work
There is a practical reason why nursing degree programs include required courses in mathematics. In their daily lives, nurses use basic math skills a great deal. Equations, ratios and fractions aren’t just abstract concepts when it comes to the field of nursing, according to The Houston Chronicle. Nurses need these skills when caring for patients in order to accurately administer medications, take measurements and calculate and interpret other medical data.
A nurse must know how to calculate medicine dosages and IV drip rates without making mistakes. If a nurse gives the wrong dose of medication or uses the wrong system of measurement in a calculation, the consequences can be serious or even fatal for the patient. In the field of nursing, doing the math correctly can literally be a matter of life and death.
In addition to being comfortable working with numbers, having strong communication skills and being detail-oriented are important qualities in nurses.
You don’t have to be crazy about math to be a good nurse. However, you do need to be competent enough in the subject of mathematics to not only get into nursing school but also put math skills to work in the real world.