Keeping it simple

Broadhead, Ruth (2021) Keeping it simple. Journal of Prescribing Practice, 3 (7). pp. 262-263. ISSN 2631-8385

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The complexity of mathematics has been pondered since the dawn of time and it is considered one of the fundamental skills required of prescribers to facilitate effective, safe practice. Williams & Davis (2016) remind us that the potential for serious health consequences for patients is dependent on the accuracy (or inaccuracy) of the clinician’s drug calculations. Indicator 4.6 in ‘A competency framework for all prescribers’ (Royal Pharmaceutical Society, 2016) requires that the prescribing practitioner “Accurately completes and routinely checks calculations relevant to prescribing and practical dosing”. However, there remains a significant amount of anxiety in respect of numerical literacy amongst some clinicians, often characterised by negative emotions that interfere with performance (Rolison, Morsanyi & Peters, 2020). Opportunities for maths education is often avoided in those with maths anxiety, thus compounding the problem. Exposure to drug calculations and embracing numerical problem-solving should be a central component of the prescriber’s continuous professional development, particularly if maths anxiety is acknowledged. The Royal College of Nursing (2019) advocate that harm to patients will be minimised if drug calculations are not rushed, but divided into smaller steps, using mental arithmetic, a calculator, applying a formula and using conversion tables. Try the following drug calculations and remember that Sir Isaac Newton [1643-1727] once said "Truth [the answer] is ever to be found in the simplicity, and not in the multiplicity and confusion of things." To this end, try to keep it simple!

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