Mathematics for nursing and chemistry (Part I)

Someone going into nursing may think that the only math they’ll see is calculating dosages and cutting pills. Well, they’re wrong! In order to get into nursing school, either an algebra course, finite math or statistics are part of the prerequisites. I agree algebra at least should be required to learn. Who wants a nurse, pharmacist or doctor who can’t do algebra? I certainly wouldn’t! It’s a given in your program, you’ll see mathematics. It is unavoidable. 

Not only will you see algebra, you’ll also see conversion factors, dimensional analysis along with miscellaneous types of mathematics. Every professor is different and may teach different concepts and topics regarding the algebra. However, there’s FIVE units you’ll absolutely cover:

  • Real Numbers and The Order Of Operations.
  • Linear Equations and Inequalities.
  • Graphing Linear Equations and Systems of Equations.
  • Polynomials, Factoring and Quadratic Equations.
  • Finite Mathematics (this could vary from professor to professor)

Also, know, that you will have to study math within the chemistry. It’s mostly conversion factors and equations, although there are a few other types of math. Also note, that it’s also required in many chemistry courses that you know algebra and at a college level reading. This may vary, but in my program — it was a requirement. 

I have made notes along my math courses, and also other material was given to me. I will post them within this blog post, not only for others going into nursing but for myself. Within my nursing blogs, it’s as if I speak to an audience but myself as well. I often look back and study, or I may need older material to correlate with newer material. 

Here are a few subjects / topics you’ll see beginning your math journey. These notes are not complete, as I pulled a few pages out of each section to give an overall idea. Other topics include properties of zero, order of operations with addiction, subtraction, multiplication, division, exponents, brackets, etc. Also sets and intervals, absolute value and distance. If you can get this down, you’ll be fine! The algebra builds on top of this. Order of operations is a foundation to build algebra skills on top of.





Linear equations and inequalities usually are unit two. Again, these aren’t all my notes, but a few taken out of my folder. All topics were mostly about linear equations, Inequalities, percentage, formulas and finding consecutive numbers.







The next unit, you’ll learn how to graph linear equations and also solve systems of equations by either substitution or the elimination method. Again, these notes blogged here are randomly chosen from an entire packet. They are not complete.





Polyatomic Ions

     Poly – Many

      Atomic – Atoms

On your journey through Chemistry Health, you’ll come upon a dragon called Polyatomic Ions! Many students seem to have trouble with these, but really all it is — is — just a bundle of memorization. You have to find a pattern for your brain to absorb these. In my case — I just remember them by the numbers (exponents and subscripts) along with the “letters”. We’ll call them letters to be organized and for the sake of simplicity. Just remember them as you do anything else — perhaps as if they’re an algebra formula. They’re not! However, memorization is memorization! There’s NO need to fear Polyatomic Ions. 

Here is a list of Polyatomic Ions, however, my professor ONLY made us remember 21 of these!

ion list

My advice is study and memorize whatever x ions your professor gives you. They’re pretty easy to recall once you get several down in your mind. If you can get several down, you can get them ALL down! Later on, they could perhaps come in useful in your nursing career. 

Learning the Elements one step at a time

The Elements I’m starting out with are common ones, that you may see on tests. This could vary, given all chemistry professors are different. 

Na – Sodium

Ag – Silver

Au – Gold

K – Potassium 

Cl – Chlorine

Mg – Magnesium

Ba – Barium

F – Fluorine

Fe – Iron

Xe – Xenon

Sn – Tin

Cu – Copper

H – Hydrogen

He – Helium

Ar – Argon

Co – Cobalt

C – Carbon

Fr – Francium

I – Iodine

Kr – Krypton

Pb – Lead

Li – Lithium

Ne – Neon

Ni – Nickel

Zn – Zinc

Al – Aluminum

I underlined the ones that you see mostly in the medical field give or take. 

The above elements are the ones I suggest learning first, as I find them easily remembered. It’s optional, really; you can learn whatever elements you choose first. I don’t advise trying to learn all of them at once, because cramming is NEVER good. I don’t recommend procrastinating either. You have to get yourself motivated and learn them. You’ll feel better if you do — and you will — especially if you have a chemistry class ahead in the foreseeable future. 

Correlations: (Xenon)

Notes on Xenon.

By: Billy Cahill for Cemistry 151 / Chemistry health.chemcopy1

Written notes above.

Text notes:


Xenon is a medical gas capable of establishing neuroprotection, inducing anesthesia as well as serving in modern laser technology and nuclear medicine as a contrast agent. In spite of its high cost, its lack of side effects, safe cardiovascular and organoprotective profile and effective neuroprotective role after hypoxic-ischemic injury (HI) favor its applications in clinics. Xenon performs its anesthetic and neuroprotective functions through binding to glycine site of glutamatergic N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor competitively and blocking it. This blockage inhibits the overstimulation of NMDA receptors, thus preventing their following downstream calcium accumulating cascades. Xenon is also used in combination therapies together with hypothermia or sevoflurane. The neuroprotective effects of xenon and hypothermia cooperate synergistically whether they are applied synchronously or asynchronously. Distinguishing properties of Xenon promise for innovations in medical gas field once further studies are fulfilled and Xenon’s high cost is overcome.

Taken from BioMed Central, Medical Gas Research / Xe

Correlations: (Barium, Potassium, Lithium, Iodine, Oxygen)


My notes on correlating chemistry with the medical field, are notes on how we will see chemistry within the medical setting. It’s not like nurses are chemists, however, as a nurse you will see chemical names and formulas.

Let’s start with BARIUM (Ba):

Polyatomic Ion

barium sulfate 1

Lewis structure

barium sulfate 2

Barium Sulfate is a polyatomic ion, and you will learn about these in your chemistry health course. 


barium sulfate 4

Barium Sulfate is used frequently as a radiocontrast agent for X – ray imaging. It can also be used for other diagnostic procedures. It is used mainly for imaging of the GI tract during what is colloquially known as a “barium meal”. It can be taken orally, or by enema, as a suspension of fine particles in a thick milk like solution (usually has sweetened flavors added).


Barium Sulfate

barium sulfate 3

Next, we’ll go to POTASSIUM (K):

Potassium Permanganate

Polyatomic ion

potassium 1

Lewis structure

potassium 2


Potassium Permanganate

Potassium Permanganate is used as an antiseptic.


Miscellaneous info on potassium:

Taken from

Potassium: The major positive ion (cation) found inside cells. The chemical notation for potassium is K+. The proper level of potassium is essential for normal cell function. An abnormal increase in potassium (hyperkalemia) or decrease in potassium (hypokalemia) can profoundly affect the nervous system and heart, and when extreme, can be fatal. The normal blood potassium level is 3.5’5.0 milliEquivalents/liter (mEq/L), or 3.5 international units.


Lithium (Li):

Lithium carbonate is used to treat Bipolar Disorder amongst other mental ailments.

Polyatomic Ion


Lewis structure





Iodine (I):



Iodine reduces thyroid hormone and can kill fungus, bacteria, and other microorganisms such as amoebas. A specific kind of iodine called potassium iodide is also used to treat (but not prevent) the effects of a radioactive accident.

Oxygen (O):

Medical oxygen is used to: … restore tissue oxygentension by improving oxygen availability in a wide range of conditions such as COPD, cyanosis, shock, severe hemorrhage, carbon monoxide poisoning, major trauma, cardiac/respiratory arrest. aid resuscitation. provide life support for artificially ventilated patients.



The notes and information gathered above is NOT all the uses of these elements and compounds. It’s just a highlight of how chemistry relates to nursing. There are many more ways these elements and compounds can be used within the medical field. 

Preparing for chemistry course(s) to become a Registered Nurse

  I have decided to blog my academic quest through chemistry. I know many students have a hard time with this particular subject, and more than likely, you’ll have a chemistry course or two! In my nursing program, I have a course called Chemistry 151 (Chemistry Health). It is a chemistry course for those who are going into the medical field. However, each program is different, and the name varies, but the concepts and majority of what you will learn in your chemistry course will be what I’m noting within this blog.  Different name, but really — there’s much of the material the same.

   To prepare yourself for chemistry, you must study at least 2 – 3 hours daily! I suggest getting it down before the actual course starts. This way, you’ll feel more confident in succeeding within your course. STUDY, STUDY, STUDY! I cannot stress that enough! If you’re like me, and never had a chemistry course in your life — you’ll want to grasp as much as you possibly can! Even if you’ve had a chemistry course, maybe in high school, you still want to study and prep yourself! 

  • Take notes about everything you could possibly imagine! EVERYTHING!
  • Buy yourself a thick notebook to write all your notes in. 
  • Calm your anxiety and worries about failing! You’ll be fine.
  • Listen in class! If you have an online course! Trust me, you’ll still want to study! It’s not a walk in the park either way.

Learn the periodic table. More than likely, your professor will NOT give you a periodic table during a test with the names of each element. It will be a periodic table with the symbol, atomic number and relative atomic mass. The periodic table our professor gave us was like this:


ONLY WITH NO CHARGES AT THE TOP ! NO CHARGES AND NO ELEMENT NAME. It all had to be memorized. Perhaps, you could luck up and get a professor that has a different table, but I doubt it. It is best to start studying the periodic table, if you haven’t yet started your chem. course.

  • I find the best way to study and learn all the element names and symbols, is to write down several everyday. Alternate across the table, and recall what you’re absorbing in. Write them down over and over. You’ll finally get them all down, or at least a good 75% of them. 

I will stop there for now, and will continue on later . . .