A recent article on the importance of career planning touched on an interesting topic – how to learn pharmacology? In an age where “the way” to learn anything and everything is easy, pharmacology is an exception. Although the subject will garner a decent amount of homework, it does require a bit of creativity. It’s also important to remember that your career will inevitably require you to think critically. The good news is that there are many tools available to help you along.
Whether you choose to learn pharmacology via textbooks, the Internet, or even an internship or residency program at a local university, the first thing you should do is take some basic courses in first aid. Anybody who has taken pharmacology as a course of study will be familiar with the coursework – basically, students are taught how to administer first aid when dealing with sick or injured patients, and how to spot potential hazards from chemicals, antineoplastic agents, toxic agents, etc. (and how to appropriately report these findings to pharmacists.) In addition, they will learn how to identify various types of drug interactions, and how to properly insert and dispose of syringes.
This is a very good first step for any student considering a career in pharmacology. However, it is important to understand that the scope of medical school can vary quite a bit, depending on your area of study and the size of your medical school. For example, all medical schools require their students to take part in clinical internships. Although these aren’t required for most students, some opt to pursue this step due to the high level of job placements expected upon graduation. If you are a busy student, it would be in your best interest to focus on your internships prior to entering med school.
As mentioned, all medical schools expect their students to participate in clinical internships, and all offer some form of course credit for them. If your goal is to get into an ivy league med school, then you may even want to consider pursuing pre-med courses as well. These will teach you topics such as anatomy, physiology, diagnostic techniques, and pharmacology. As you progress through your medical school studies, you will gain more exposure to the areas that you’ll be dealing with on a daily basis.
This is probably the last thing you’ll want to do before entering med school, but it’s definitely an option. The best pharmacology book on the market today, by far, is Quick Fix Medicine by Keith Geddes. While it will teach you everything you need to know about pharmacology, it also provides information on answering the diagnostic questions you’ll likely be facing when entering med school, such as “what does x look like on my arm?”
When it comes to learning pharmacology, most students agree that flashcards are the way to go. I have two very favorite flashcard software packages, flashcard maker 1 and flashcard maker 2. I prefer flashcard software because it is so easy to customize. You can make use of the shapes, colors, and various images that are commonly associated with pharmacology. You can also easily print out the questions on the cards for a more interactive experience.
The third method on the top of the list is mnemonics. Mnemonics are great for people who are not able to remember large parts of text that appear on the labels of drugs, birth readings, and anything else related to pharmacology. You can find mnemonics online and in many high yield card decks.
All three of my preferred studying methods for study pharmacology yield very positive results for my students. I encourage you to try them as well. The key to remember is to make sure that your flashcards, mnemonics, or both are designed for easy study. If you try to force a topic into your mind, you may get distracted and not fully absorb the information. By being aware of these key elements, you will study pharmacology with ease.