Organizing medication research in clinical

My clinical instructors, probably like yours, require that I thoroughly research every medication that I am about to give to a patient. My first med-surg placement was on a cardiology unit and my second was inpatient psychiatry. On both units, I researched my meds on a piece of paper and trashed it at the end of the week. The picture below shows my old method of doing med research. This was before I knew any better and, as you probably guessed, mega inefficient.


On my third and current placement, the medical teaching unit (also known as step down ICU), I have completely revamped my medication research. The problem with the old method was that I frequently encountered the same meds for different patients, but had gotten rid of my papers. On the odd day I kept these papers, it took me a bunch of time to sort through them. Thanks to a suggestion from my instructor, I now make cue cards for my medications.

This is a very simple method where you give each medication its own cue card. On the blank side is the name of the med and its class and on the back is all of its information (pictures below). Usually, I like to write the pharmocokinetic information on the top, such as: onset, peak, duration, and half-life. The rest of the card has the same info as the sheet above, but condensed. I use red ink to write down any important notes about the medication or the nursing assessments I must remember to perform. If a medication is a high-alert drug, I try to use a colored cue card, just for that extra heads up.

The reason this method is effective and efficient is because it is easy to store and refer back to the medication information. I hole punch and keep all my cards on a binder ring. When I first review a patient’s meds at the start of my shift, I remove the cards that correspond to the medications I will be administering and bring them to the front of the pile. Then, I use blank cards (I always carry a few with me) to research the meds that I don’t have cards for. This method has significantly reduced the time I spend doing medication research at the start of my shift. The entire set sits in the large pocket of my scrubs and is very accessible.

I hope this tip helps you succeed in your clinical practice. Please let me know if you decided to use this method and how it works out for you. Perhaps you already have a method that you find effective. If so, please share. I would love to hear your tips!


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