Assessment of Nursing Student Numeracy



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Background: This study addresses the question, what are the numeracy skills of RN students? The reason for asking this question is the documented deficiency in numeracy skills published for both nursing students and employees. Purpose: Nurses need numeracy skills to calculate drug dosage and IV flow rates as part of safe patient care. The purpose of this study is to target instructional support for improved nurse numeracy skills, toward the end of improved patient care. Methods: The current study employed a math test administered to 47 community college RN students. The test assessed both general and clinical numeracy skills. The hypothesis was that test results would identify specific skills that could be targeted for intervention at the pre-RN program (high school), RN program, or professional development levels. Results: Data showed RN students most in need of intervention in decimal and percent use for general skills, with application to drug dosages requiring multiple unit conversions. Clinical numeracy scores correlated significantly with general numeracy scores. Contrast among first vs. later semester RN students showed that scores of first semester students were higher than for those further progressed in the program. Conclusion: These data suggest a need for increased instruction in decimal and percent operations, and use of these operations to compute drug dosage in a context of proportion or dimensional analysis. These data also emphasize the importance of admission criteria and continuing education in dosage calculation.



Nurse student numeracy, Drug dosage calculation