What are pharmacokinetics, and how do they impact nursing?

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pharmacokinetics is the study of how long it takes for drugs to absorb, distribute, metabolize and excrete in the body

Nurses have a major impact on the health and wellbeing of their patients. Beyond maintaining medical records, monitoring patient conditions and communicating with doctors, nurses play a large role in administering medications and ensuring each patient reacts well to such treatments. Because of this major responsibility, it’s crucial that nurses understand the basics around pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics so they can comprehend how drugs interact with the body from a physiological perspective.

Let’s take a closer look at what defines pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, how pharmacokinetics impacts nurses and how the Bradley online Doctor of Nursing Practice – Family Nurse Practitioner program can prepare nurses to handle pharmacology and administer medication on a regular basis.

What is pharmacokinetics?

According to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists in “Concepts in Clinical Pharmacokinetics,” pharmacokinetics is the study of how long it takes for drugs to absorb, distribute, metabolize and excrete (also known as ADME) in the body. In a clinical setting, pharmacokinetic principles are applied throughout the treatment process to ensure every patient is treated safely and effectively.

One of the main goals of any medical professional who administers drugs is to ensure the right prescription and dosage to offer treatment, enhanced efficiency and reduced toxicity in the body. Applying pharmacokinetic principles to individual patients allows medical professionals to better understand the physical and chemical properties of drugs and how the responses correlate with the body.

What’s the difference between pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics?

Pharmacokinetics is the study of how drugs move through the body from the point of administration until complete absorption. While similar to this concept, pharmacodynamics is its own subject. According to “Pharmacokinetics, Pharmacodynamics, Nursing Care,” an episode of the Nursing Show, a podcast dedicated to nurses, pharmacodynamics is “defined as the study of the biochemical and physiological effects of drugs and the mechanisms of their actions, including the correlation of their actions and effects with their chemical structure. It is the study of the effects of substances or drugs to the body.”

Essentially, pharmacodynamics focuses solely on the initial reaction that occurs when a drug enters the action site, followed by its immediately resulting effect. While pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics are essential to understand a drug from a full circle perspective. For example, comprehending how the drug works throughout the body is critical to ensure a patient’s wellness, but interpreting the chemical reactions as they occur is crucial to gather how and why an administered medication worked well.

How is pharmacokinetics related to DNP-Family NPs?

Drug administration is one of NPs’ many important daily responsibilities. Comprehending the concepts of pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics allows NPs to focus on how drugs alter the body from a physiological perspective, which allows them to better assess patients and suggest one medication over another. It also provides NPs with a breadth of knowledge and understanding of how drugs work and enables these professionals to better explain how important it is for patients to adhere to their medications as prescribed.

With a thorough grounding in both pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, NPs can properly assess patients and provide individual evaluations and suggestions based on drug reactions. Karen-Leigh Edward, director and chair of St. Vincent’s Private Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, wrote about the subject in a 2015 JAN Interactive article, describing the importance of gaining knowledge on drug absorption to properly apply it in real-world context.

“Current and comprehensive knowledge of the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of drugs have implications for nursing management of patient care,” Edward wrote. “Medication competence in nursing is multifaceted, requiring broader understanding of medication management than that currently taught in undergraduate nursing curriculum, which focuses on drug administration and drug calculations, adherence and legal considerations. Using the nursing process (assessment, planning, intervention and evaluation) nurses can identify and monitor factors that may affect or alter drug absorption and consequent action.”

Because drug reactions vary from person to person, it’s important for nurses to continue to learn about different medications to ensure a solid foundation of knowledge throughout their career.

What can Bradley’s DNP-FNP program teach students about this topic?

If you’re interested in boosting your knowledge of pharmacokinetics and how it relates to your career as a nurse, consider enrolling in the online DNP-FNP program at Bradley University. There are multiple courses dedicated to pharmacology that dive into the subject of pharmacokinetics, such as:

  • NUR 651 Advanced Pharmacology I delves into the knowledge needed to assess, diagnose and manage treatment from a pharmacological perspective.
  • NUR 652 Advanced Pharmacology II takes a thorough dive into the principles of pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and pharmacotherapeutics of medications, and how nurses need advanced skills and knowledge to understand and appropriately prescribe patient medications.

With so many different opportunities to learn about pharmacokinetics, Bradley can help you set and achieve new goals that push toward greater success in the nursing field. For more information on how to elevate your future, check out the online DNP-FNP program at Bradley University page today, or contact one of our enrollment advisors.


Recommended Readings:

What are The Differences Between a DNP and an MD?

The Doctor of Nursing Practice Role in Health Care (Infographic)

Online DNP-Family Nurse Practitioner Curriculum



Principles of Pharmacokinetics

Introduction to pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics

Why nurses need to know about pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics – informing practice towards better medication competence

Pharmacokinetics, Pharmacodynamics, Nursing Care

Bradley DNP Course descriptions