Specific Core Nursing Content # 3: Pharmacotherapeutics and Basic Principles of Pharmacology


Clinical Learning Outcomes

  • Articulate knowledge of the neurobiological mechanism for various psychotropic medications.
  • Evaluate effects of medications on patient, including symptom abatement, side effects, toxicity, and potential interactions with other medications/substances.
  • Identify factors contributing to patient non-adherence.
  • Teach patients to manage their own medications including strategies to increase adherence to prescribed therapeutic regimen.
  • Apply pharmacotherapeutic principles to the safe administration of psychotropic medications.


Teaching Strategies


Classroom Teaching Strategies

  • Multi-method approach that encompasses traditional lectures, active learning strategies, collaborative learning, and problem solving to foster critical thinking, learning skills, and knowledge acquisition.
  • Individual or group presentations on pharmacological issues.
  • Student groups make up NCLEX type questions on medications used in PMH nursing.
  • Instructor dissects an NCLEX style question with the students; discussing the stem and how it might be tested in reference to basic principles of pharmacology.
  • Construct arguments for and against the use of alternative medical approaches.

 Clinical Teaching Strategies

  • Demonstrate the skills involved in administration of medication and supervision of clients.
    • Review the seven questions with each student: (Drug information the student is expected to know regarding their patient)
    1. Drug classification
    2. Drug action in your own words
    3. Why is this drug being used for your client?  (What are your patient’s symptoms the drug is treating?)
    4. What is the expected outcome of therapy with the drug?  (How will you know it is working for your patient?)
    5. Is this a safe dose and route?
    6. Common side effects (3-5) and precautions
    7. Nursing implications for administration and client teaching. (i.e., fall precautions, blood pressure, dietary restrictions)
  • Participate in patient education regarding psychotropic medications and possible side effects.
  • Encourage students to verbalize their thinking and engage with clients who are medicated.
  • Assessment of potential side effects and toxicity in clients and initiation of appropriate nursing action.

Curricular Resources

Case Studies

  • Invite consumers to class to describe their experiences. Focus on side effects of medication, adherence issues, cost issues.

Simulation Exercises

  • High fidelity mannequins used to reproduce pharmacological impact on client, especially adverse or toxic reactions. Affords students different opportunities to role-play different parts of the healthcare team, delegate tasks, share information, and further develop communication skills.


Assessment Strategies


Test Banks

Comparative Case Study

  • Students select two clients with very different experiences with psychotropic medications. One client had very successful outcomes and is compared to another patient who has struggled to find the appropriate medication

Clinical Skills Checklist for this Concept

  • Discuss medication needs of the newly admitted patient/client (Standard 5E. Pharmacological, Biological, and Integrative Therapies)
  • Devise care plans for patients/clients who are being treated with three different types of psychiatric medications (Standard 5B. Health Teaching)
The American Psychiatric Nurses Association is accredited with distinction as a provider of continuing nursing education by the American Nurses Credentialing Center's Commission on Accreditation.