Nursing (NURS) 521

Pharmacotherapeutics for Nurse Prescribers


Delivery Mode: Paced/home-study online

Credits: 3

Area of Study: Applied Studies

Precluded Course: NURS 521 cannot be taken for credit if credit has been obtained for NURS 516 or NURS 517

Centre: Centre for Nursing and Health Studies


Nursing 521 Pharmacotherapeutics for Nurse Prescribers is a course in a program of study leading to the Master of Nursing degree or the Post Master's Diploma: Advanced Nursing Practice. NURS 521 is a prerequisite course for NURS 518, NURS 520, NURS 522, NURS 524, NURS 526, NURS 527 and NURS 528. NURS 521 can be taken as an elective course by other Master of Nursing or Master of Health Studies students and by non-program students.

Building on basic knowledge of pharmacology, this course focuses on principles of drug action, pharmacokinetics and pharmacotherapeutics in the context of advanced nursing practice. Common drug classes, indications, and evaluations of outcomes of therapy are presented. The legal and professional issues of prescribing as well as the significance of keeping up-to-date using evidence-based practice are addressed.

Course Goals

After completing this course, students should be able to:

  1. describe the basic principles of pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, and how these principles may affect prescribing decisions;
  2. demonstrate an understanding of the selection and use of drugs in the management and treatment of disease, including the application of pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics to client clinical context and the integration of client social context (age, health status, gender, concomitant therapies, cultural beliefs, financial status, etc) to the selection of drugs of choice;
  3. identify and incorporate special considerations when prescribing for specific populations: pregnancy, breastfeeding, older adults, children and infants, and genetic factors;
  4. evaluate and then apply research findings to the development of evidence-based, comprehensive client pharmaceutical plans of care;
  5. evaluate prescribed drug regimens for safety, clinical efficacy and outcomes, in partnership with the client;
  6. identify and incorporate strategies to address potential barriers to regimen adherence into client assessment and education;
  7. communicate effectively in order to support, educate, coach and counsel clients in regards to their optimal treatment regimen;
  8. appropriately access antimicrobial guidelines to include community therapies;
  9. describe and analyze the impact of health system resource allocation on drug selection and utilization (pharmacoeconomics);
  10. demonstrate safe evidence-based prescriptive practices and implements ways to reduce potential medication mishaps into personal prescribing practices;
  11. integrate knowledge of adverse drug reactions and interactions in safe prescribing and appropriately report adverse drug reactions;
  12. understand professional, ethical and legal considerations and responsibilities when prescribing;
  13. describe the current status of prescriptive authority for nurse practitioners in your province/territory;
  14. recognize polypharmacy and takes appropriate interventions to optimize therapy; and
  15. summarize the role of interdisciplinary consultation in optimizing drug therapy.

Course Materials

Online Materials

  • Introduction: Provides essential information about the course design and materials.
  • Schedule: Outlines the timing of course activities.
  • Units: There are eight units in this course.
  • Assessment: Outlines the assignments/evaluation procedure of the course.
  • Reference: Listing of required readings and websites included in the course.


Arcangelo, V., Peterson, A., Wilber, V. & Reinhold, J. (2017). Pharmacotherapeutics for Advanced Practice, 4th edition. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer.

Course Structure

The course includes Internet access to health-related websites around the world, participation in email, and computer conferencing with students from across the country. Students are expected to connect to an Internet Service Provider at their own expense.

Technical Requirements

Computer System

In order to successfully complete this course, you must own or have ready access to certain computer hardware and software programs. For complete and up-to-date information on the minimum computer requirements required to complete the graduate nursing courses, visit the Centre for Nursing and Health Studies technical site.

Course Outline

Unit 1: Pharmacotherapeutics and the Nurse Prescriber
Unit 1 covers the ethical, legal and professional issues relating to pharmacotherapy and the nurse prescriber. Unit 1 also explore skills and information on effective prescription writing and rational drug selection.

Unit 2: Principles of Pharmacotherapeutics
Unit 2 covers the main principles of pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics, in other words, how drugs work and what they do to the body. Understanding these phenomena aid the nurse prescriber to select appropriate drugs, anticipate onset and duration of action, drug interactions and what follow up is required to ensure safety.

 Unit 3: Drugs for the Cardiovascular and Renal Systems
This unit focuses on medications used in the secondary and tertiary stages of cardiac and renal care, utilizing recommendations from Canadian clinical practice guidelines.

Unit 4: Drugs for the Eyes, Ears and the Hematological System
Unit 4 explores the pharmacological treatment of ear and eye conditions. Anticoagulation and the anemias are discussed. All topics are viewed with a view to formulations that are applicable to the age and capacity of the individual as well as by the clinical practice guidelines.

Unit 5: Drugs for Infections and the Integumentary System
This unit reviews microbiological principles as it pertains to the treatment of infections. Antibiotic stewardship is emphasized. The management of infectious and non-infectious dermatological conditions are discussed.

Unit 6: Drugs for the Endocrine System
This unit focuses on prescribing for the management of diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism and osteoporosis utilizing current clinical practice guidelines.

Unit 7: Drugs for the Pulmonary and Gastrointestinal Systems
Unit 7 reviews pharmacotherapy for acute and chronic pulmonary diseases as well as medications used for common gastrointestinal conditions.

Unit 8: Drugs for the Nervous System and for the Control of Pain and Inflammation
Pharmacotherapies for neuropsychiatric disorders and other neurological conditions are reviewed in this unit. The treatment of pain and inflammation are also discussed.

Unit 9: Drugs for the Genitourinary System and Reproductive Systems
Drugs affecting the urinary system for both men and women are discussed. Contraception and hormone replacement therapies are reviewed.

Unit 10: Vaccines, Nutritional and Alternative Therapies, and Drugs for Substance Abuse
Unit 10 focuses on vaccines, pharmaco-nutritional therapies, complimentary and alternative pharmacotherapies and supplements, and medications used to treat alcohol and nicotine addiction.

Assessment Structure

Conference Participation 10%
Assignment #1 Case Study  20%
Exam 1 25%
Assignment #2 Case Study 20%
Exam 2 25%
Total 100%

To be eligible to receive a passing grade for NURS 521, you must achieve a minimum mark of 65% (6.5/10) on conference participation, a minimum average mark of 65% (26/40) on the two written assignments, and a minimum average mark of 70% (35/50) on the two examinations.

Conference Participation (10%)

Feedback regarding conference participation will be ongoing. Quality of input (not quantity) is the goal. Feedback will focus on the student's ability to provide organized and scholarly contributions that reflect analysis and synthesis of the material presented.

Assignment 1 & 2: Case Studies (20% each)

A case studies are used to demonstrate and utilize rational drug selection principles in the context of patient-centered care

Exam 1 & 2 (25% each)

The course includes two multiple-choice exams.

Athabasca University reserves the right to amend course outlines occasionally and without notice. Courses offered by other delivery methods may vary from their individualized-study counterparts.

Opened November 30, 2016.