Do nursing students have the recall of bioscience necessary to study pharmacology?

Doggrell, Sheila, Schaffer, Sally, Polkinghorne, Adam, & Tuli, Rinku (2014) Do nursing students have the recall of bioscience necessary to study pharmacology? In 17th World Congress of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology (WCP2014), 13-18 July 2014, Cape Town, South Africa.

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Background: For medical and allied health students, bioscience knowledge underpins the successful scaffolding of learning in their developmental and advanced level units. Many of these students complete theory-based Bioscience units, followed by a unit in Pharmacology, which specifically requires knowledge of anatomy, physiology and microbiology. In general, studies of recall report relatively large losses over short retention intervals (months), which accumulate, but level off, for longer retention intervals (years) (Custers, 2010). However, there are no studies that specifically test the recall of bioscience knowledge by allied health students.

Methods: We are tracking the recall of bioscience in nursing students prior to, and during, their Pharmacology unit. In each semester, students complete short, basic, knowledge-based MCQ quizzes on concepts from (i) the gastrointestinal system and (ii) fundamental microbiology. Students were given 5 days warning about the microbiology quizzes but were given no warning prior to the gastrointestinal system quiz. Performance in these quizzes was compared to individual student’s results in the final examination on these topics in the first semester of their degree.

Results: At the start of the study, the nursing students performed better in the exam MCQs on the gastrointestinal system than on microbiology. In the exam, the students’ mean marks for the gastrointestinal system ranged from 69–83%, and this was successively reduced to 63%, 53% and 49% after 4, 9 and 16 months, respectively. The mean exam marks for microbiology was 48–58%, and this did not change significantly after 4 (63%), 9 (59%) or 16 months (47%). This suggests that warning the nursing students that they were to be quizzed on microbiology may have helped their recall. However, after 16 months regardless of the subject, the nursing students undertaking the Pharmacology unit recalled less than half of the bioscience quiz answers.

Conclusions: Nursing students may not have the recall of bioscience necessary to study pharmacology, and this may limit their success in pharmacology.


Custers, E. J. F. M. (2010). Long-term retention of basic science knowledge: a review study. Advances in Health Science Education, 15, 109–128.

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ID Code: 76362
Item Type: Conference Item (Presentation)
Refereed: No
Additional Information: Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology, Special Issue: Abstracts of the 17th World Congress of Basic and Clinical Pharmacology, 13–18 July 2014, Cape Town, South Africa, Volume 115, Issue Supplement s1, pages 326–333, July 2014
DOI: 10.1111/bcpt.12259_12
ISSN: 1742-7843
Divisions: Current > Schools > School of Biomedical Sciences
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Institutes > Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation
Deposited On: 30 Sep 2014 23:07
Last Modified: 30 Sep 2014 23:20

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