The Effectiveness of Dimensional Analysis as a Problem-solving Method for Medication Calculations from the Nursing Student Perspective
Craig, Gloria P.
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The problem. The nursing literature has identified that many nurses experience difficulty in calculating medication calculation problems. Chemistry educators have adopted a method, dimensional analysis, that is not only easier to learn but also reduces errors when a mathematical conversion is required. The purpose of this qualitative study was to evaluate the effectiveness of dimensional analysis as a problem-solving method for medication calculations from the perspective of nursing students. Specifically, the study answered the grand-tour question, "What perceptions do nursing students have regarding the effectiveness of dimensional analysis as a problem-solving method for medication calculations?" Based on the nursing literature, four sub-questions also were included regarding mathematical, conceptual, and cognitive deficiencies and mathematical anxiety levels of nurses and nursing students. Procedures. A purposeful sampling was utilized with 27 nursing students enrolled in a three-year diploma nursing education program from a hospital-based school of nursing located in central Iowa. To establish trustworthiness of the study, triangulation of the data was accomplished through the use of participant observation, one-to-one, open-ended interviews, and a closed-ended questionnaire allowing conclusions to be draw from multiple referents. Six nursing students requesting additional tutoring were chosen to participate in one-to-one, open-ended interviews based on the criteria for critical case sampling permitting maximum application of information. Findings. Data obtained from the nursing students provided themes and conceptual patterns regarding the effectiveness of dimensional analysis as a problem-solving method for medication calculations. Nine emerging themes were obtained from the data examples provided by the six nursing students during the open-ended interviews and categorized into three major conceptual patterns. Closed-ended questionnaires were answered by 27 nursing students. All of the nursing students strongly agreed and agreed (100%) that dimensional analysis improved their mathematical calculation abilities and conceptual abilities, 92.6% strongly agreed and agreed that it improved their cognitive abilities, and 77.8% strongly agreed and agreed that it reduced their anxiety levels when solving medication calculation problems. Conclusions. In this study, nursing students identified that dimensional analysis was an effective problem-solving method for medication calculations that assisted them in improving their mathematical, conceptual, and cognitive abilities, as well as decrease their anxiety levels. Dimensional analysis was found to be a successful problem-solving method for both right-brain and left-brain learners because of the ability to be visualized and followed in a logical manner with an explicit step-by-step approach. Recommendations. The positive findings from this study certainly warrant further quantitative and qualitative research using dimensional analysis as a problem-solving method for medication calculations with other nursing students, students in other disciplines, and practicing nurses. Regardless of whether dimensionaI analysis is used in education or practice, it remains an avenue to be considered by schools of nursing, hospitals, or other institutions when the goal is competence in medication calculation abilities, reduction of medication errors, and above all adherence to the code "do no harm."
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