Lesson 2: Importance and Relevance of Pharmacology in Nursing, History of Pharmacology

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Now that we have understood the basics of our course we may start wondering of what relevance the subject matter is to us as nurses. The health service opearates largely on team work. The doctors do the diagnosis and prescrition and the pharmacy department is well equiped to dispense the drugs. The importance of the course will bring sharply into focus our role in drugs, therapeutics and of course pharmacology.

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At the end of the Lesson the students will;
  • Understand the importance of the study of pharmacolocy
  • Be able to apply the use of the 5 rights in drug administration
  • Appreciate the nurses' role as prescribers and dispensers
  • Identify some of the key events in the history of pharmacology
  • Discuss the evolution and progress in pharmacology

Lesson Content

Importance and or relevance of studying Pharmacology

  1. Understand drugs and how they can affect living things
  2. Know the right dosage of drugs and not just quantity
  3. Identify and respond to drug interactions, reactions and side effects and treat accordingly
  4. Know when to use drugs because some conditions do not need drug therapy
  5. Understand the process of drug intake, absorption, distribution, metabolism and elimination.
  6. Identify the properties of ideal drugs and otherwise
  7. Know the application of pharmacology in nursing with regards to the 5 right of;
      • Use right drug
      • Give to right patient
      • Give right dose
      • Give by right route
      • Give at right time.

History of Pharmacology

Drugs have been used to treat diseases ever since the existence of man e.g. roots herbs, tree bark, animal parts, plant seeds etc. Sometimes people died after using certain plant and animal products. There was no rational use, choices were through observation and faith and some of the ingredients were absurd e.g. cowries chain for convulsion etc. The mode of action was not known, there was no therapeutic effect but most patients had psychological relief. With time and by trial and error, they began to differentiate between those that were poisonous and those not. Present day pharmacy dates back to the middle of the 19th Century through the isolation of specific active agents from their complex mixtures. It started with observing the effects of the drug on the whole animal or human patient. This progressed to the possible investigation of action on isolated organs e.g. ergometrine on the uterus. The researches then identified these basic attributes of pharmacology

  • The dose and effect relationship
  • The process involved in intake, absorption, distribution, transformation and excretion of drugs
  • The localization of the site of action
  • The mechanism of drug action
  • The relation ship between chemical structure and biological activity of substances.


Modern pharmacology began in the early 19th century and the 20th century brought further progress including development of serums, vaccines and many synthetic drugs. Pharmacy got recognized as a profession and legislations promoted to control experimentation, manufacture and sale of food and drugs.

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Apparently the study of Pharmacy cannot be overlooked in the practice of nursing because of the numerous benefits we derive. It give better understanding to the use of drugs, precautions that we have to take as nurse so that the use of drugs give maximum benefit and minimum harm. Significant historical events taken through the sequence and made us to know that the practice of pharmacology began thousands of years ago and also that applying products to relieve suffering has been recorded throughout history by virtually every culture. Modern trends have improved the fundamental and unscientific ways of the discipline.

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Invite comments from class on the type of products that were applied for relief of suffering and cure of disease as told them by older family members. This would be done done by;

  • Ethnic tribe
  • Religion
  • Sex

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  • Using your current knowledge on the importance of Pharmacology, explain to a group teacher trainees, the importance and usefulness of the discipline to nurses.
  • To show how the profession has evolved, give them a brief historical perspective.

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  1. Clinical Pharmacology for Nurses; John Trounce, Dinah Gould: Churchill Livingstone 1994
  2. Trounce's Clinical Pharmacology for Nurses; Ben Greenstein , Dinah Gould Churchhill Livingstone 1993

Aakwaamensah 16:05, 28 February 2007 (CET)