How Is Math Involved in Nursing?

Written by l.p. klages
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How Is Math Involved in Nursing?
Nurses use mathematics in their everyday jobs. (nurse chris image by John Keith from

Nursing isn't just about taking care of patients. Nurses are an integral part of the health care team. They must monitor vital signs and fluids, administer medications and read charts. Nurses must use a variety of basic math to perform these functions. Without math, a nurse wouldn't know how much medication to dispense or how much to adjust the IV drip. Math is involved in almost every aspect of nursing.

Types of Math

According to Eastern Kentucky University, nurses must be able to convert numbers between Arabic and Roman numerals; perform basic math calculations (addition, subtraction, multiplication and division); solve ratio and proportion problems; convert to and from metric, apothecary (pharmacy measurements and weights), and household (household measurements like drop, teaspoon and cup) systems.


According to Glendale Community College, math skills used in nursing aren't highly advanced, but you do need to be able to solve basic problems such as: Express 1,200/350 as a decimal Find six per cent of 45 If 4 medication containers contain 68 tablets, how many tablets are in each container, if the tablets are evenly divided? Three meters are how many centimetres?

Fluid Outputs

Fluid output monitoring is a day-to-day part of a nurse's job and it's important to know the reference range for a particular output. A reference range is a set of normal values for a particular output. For example, the National Institutes of Health state that urine has a reference range of 800 to 2,000 millilitres per 24-hour period. If a patient produces outside of this reference range per day, it could be cause for concern.

IV Flow Rates

Nurses must be able to properly set up IV drips, using ratio and proportions calculations, according to Eastern Kentucky University. A ratio and proportion calculation is where you compare one unit to another unit. For example, you might be working with a medication that is 250 milligrams in 500 millilitres of solution, and you need to know what to do with a prescription that calls for 5 milligrams per hour. Some IV drip rate problems can be complex and require multiple steps.


Nurses must be able to convert a prescription into a dosage based on patient body weight. For example, if the medication calls for 10 grams per 45.4 Kilogram, a 150-pound patient would require 15 grams of medication.

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