What You Can Learn About Pharmacology in Bradley’s FNP Program

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An FNP talks about a prescription with her patient.

Family nurse practitioners (FNPs) provide primary care to patients of all ages and backgrounds, from infants and young adults to expectant couples, growing families and empty-nesters. They play an important role in diagnosing and treating these patients on a daily basis. Consequently, it is critical they understand how to administer medications, which makes studying the art of pharmacology and potentially fatal drug interactions important.

According to the American Assocation of Nurse Practitioners, in 2020, 95.7% of NPs prescribe medications, with those working full time writing as many as 20 on an average day. To connect the importance of pharmacology to the FNP role, the AANP also reports that nearly two-thirds of NPs are certified in providing family primary care, making FNPs easily the largest cohort of nurse practitioners.

A graduate education can help you to learn more about advanced pharmacology and build skills to deliver high-quality care; plus, a master’s degree is required to become an FNP. Let’s take a closer look at  advanced pharmacology for nurse practitioners and what students can learn about the subject in Bradley’s online MSN program specifically designed to prepare future FNPs.

What Is Pharmacology?

First, let’s establish a definition for pharmacology.

According to the American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET)(October 2019), pharmacology is “the science of how drugs act on biological systems and how the body responds to the drug.” The study of pharmacology draws on a range of disciplines, such as chemistry, physiology and pathology.

With their knowledge of pharmacology, health care practitioners can safely prepare and dispense medications for optimal outcomes. Pharmacology can also help companies develop and manufacture new and better pharmaceuticals. Some applications for pharmacology that ASPET mentioned include:

  • Treatment and prevention of major diseases
  • Personalized precision medicine
  • Nanotechnology-based approaches to fighting disease

How Does Pharmacology Impact the FNP Role?

As advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), FNPs have a range of regular duties, including recording medical history data, ordering and interpreting diagnostic tests and talking with patients and their families about disease prevention and disease treatment/monitoring.

Among those core duties is prescribing and managing patient medications. FNPs, for the most part, have prescriptive authority that enables them to write and help manage pharmaceuticals. An important caveat to this fact is that based on state laws, some FNPs may be restricted in their prescriptive authority depending on the state in which they practice.

In any case, FNPs must master pharmacology. With this knowledge, they can abide by the “six rights of medication administration,” a set of overarching health care guidelines for the safe and correct administration of various medications. According to HCPro, they include:

  1. Right patient: Before administering the medication, FNPs must verify the patient’s name and medical records.
  2. Right medication: FNPs have to ensure that the medication is the correct one according to the treatment plan.
  3. Right dose: Dosage must be exact. Family nurse practitioners have to take into account what they know about the patient and the drug.
  4. Right time: Some medications have to be given at specific times during the day. If that’s the case, FNPs always have to know when that right time is and how frequently the medication is administered.
  5. Right route: Different medications may have different delivery methods. It’s up to FNPs to know the correct one.
  6. Right documentation: Keeping accurate medical records is essential. FNPs should be familiar with how to document instances of medication administration in an electronic health record (EHR).

What Can FNPs Learn from Advanced Pharmacology Courses?

If you’re interested in an advanced practice nursing career, you’ll need a master’s degree to become a licensed FNP. As you progress through your graduate studies, you should expect to take at least one course on advanced pharmacology for nurse practitioners.

Some topics that advanced pharmacology courses may address include:

  • Metabolism of drugs
  • Molecular, biochemical and physiological effects of drugs
  • Toxicology of drugs

When you enroll in the online MSN-FNP program available from Bradley, you’ll gain a high level of knowledge and skills to use in clinical situations and patient care.

Pharmacology will be an underlying subject matter throughout your studies, as well as the focus of one special course.

Advanced Pharmacology gives prospective FNPs a chance to gain advanced foundational knowledge of pharmokinetics and pharmodynamics, like learning about pharmacology drug classes and pathological reactions to that class use. This course will give students the expertise and tools needed to offer the highest quality care in the safest, most cost-effective manner while building on the essentials of advanced pharmacology and teaching students about the general principles of medication pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and pharmacotherapeutics that are used specifically by FNPs. By the end of the course, you’ll complete an in-depth study to in applying pharmacologic techniques to solve problems and offer solutions. Practical pharmacology application during this course is also paired with simultaneous practicum courses, which assist students with real-life experiences.

Earn Your Master’s Online from Bradley

Interested in becoming an FNP? Contact an enrollment advisor today to learn more about the online MSN-FNP program available from Bradley.

Recommended reading:

Bradley — Online Master of Science in Nursing – Family Nurse Practitioner Program

What Is a Family Nurse Practitioner’s Scope of Practice?

What are pharmacokinetics, and how do they impact nursing?

What is pharmacodynamics?


AANP — NP Fact Sheet

ASPET — About Pharmacology

HCPro — Practice the six rights of medication administration