Looking for NPTE Pharmacology Study Tips?

You're not alone.

We are often asked by our students how they should go about studying meds for the NPTE. As an instructor of various physical therapy courses, one question I used to alway dread being asked was:

"How should I study for this?"

As a new instructor, I would always think to myself, "well.... just study!". I used to think that everyone was like me, and that they just needed to put more time in and review.

What I've learned over time is that everyone learns in different ways, and that just telling someone to spend more time studying isn't always the best, or even a good, piece of advice.

I don't mind being asked how to study anymore, in fact, I think that is a question that every NPTE candidate should ask. I believe that learning to study efficiently and effectively is arguably more important than the number of hours each NPTE candidate is able to dedicate to their review plan.

So how should you go about reviewing meds? The answer will be different for everyone, but I do have some NPTE Pharmacology study tips to share. I hope they are enough to get you started in the right direction!

My first words of wisdom are:

Please, please, do not simply sit down and try to study each individual medication.

We are not taking pharmacology boards here (thank goodness). In fact, in some states, Physical Therapists are not even allowed to perform a simple medication reconciliation. That said, the APTA believes that PT's are more than capable of functioning as case managers and are able to perform medication review. Therefore, you will likely encounter several exam items on the NPTE that contain information pertaining to and regarding various pharmacological agents and concepts. For that reason, it is important that PT's have a broad understanding of medication indications, intended effects, contraindications, and side effects.

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My initial advice when just starting out would be to study medication categories. The human brain is great at consolidation and categorization. it is much easier to remember 839-239-4739 than it is to remember 8392394739. The same concept applies to studying medications.

Rather than memorize the effect of each medication, begin by memorizing medication categories.

Once you have the medication categories down, then proceed to memorize what each of these broad groups do.

Memorize any contraindications associated with these medications and any pertinent side effects caused by that group of meds.

Memorizing each medication group should be your first concern. Focus on each groups' indications, contraindications, and side-effects. When asked which drug class is capable of addressing high BP, cardiac arrhythmias, and chest pain you should immediately answer "Beta Blockers!!" Once you feel confident with each med group you can move onto specific medications within the group.

It is my opinion that you will be able to answer most NPTE medication questions simply by having a thorough understanding of each medication category. That said, it is not a bad idea to memorize some specific examples within each group. Rather than memorizing lists of medications though, I would recommend studying the specific examples that come up during your NPTE preparation program.

Let me provide you with an example.

Pretend you are reading about cardiac arrhythmias in your NTPE review book and come across a cardiac glycoside known as digoxin. Since Digoxin has been specifically called out by name, it was likely thought to be relevant enough to PT practice to be included in the review text. Therefore, my advice would be to review this specific drug in detail. I would look at the indications, effects, side effects, and contraindications for this specific medication. As you continue to study cardiac arrhythmias, you may come across another drug class such as beta blockers. It is unlikely that specific examples of beta blockers will be given (as there are so many), and therefore I would advise you to focus on reviewing beta blockers as a group, rather than memorize the entire list of beta blockers.

I would apply this methodology to each condition studied. There may be some categories of medications that merit in depth review of the specific medications contained within. One example being anti-inflammatory medications, including NSAIDS, as well as pain medications, etc.

For most drug classes however, I would focus on studying the medication group, and not all of the medications contained within.

I'll add another exception to this concept. I would suggest paying special attention to any specific medication called out by name while reviewing a particular condition. Some examples being levodopa for parkinson's, rilutek for ALS, and the drugs contained within the interferon class for MS. These specific drugs are relevant to PT practice and you should therefore pay specific attention to them.

So, to summarize, my advice is to focus on reviewing the indications, intended effects, side-effects, and contraindications of the medication groups contained within your NPTE review text. Then, perform additional review of specific medications discussed within other sections of your NPTE review text that are especially relevant to PT practice.

I hope these NPTE pharmacology study tips help launch you in the right direction! If something doesn't make sense or you would like further clarification, just comment below. 

Remember, we're here to help, just ask!

Trevor Lohman PT, DPT
Owner, PhysicalTherapyEd.com