Maths Anxiety in Modern Nursing
Maths Anxiety in Nurses
According to a paper published by the University of Central Lancashire (R.Barret 2017) Drug errors are the cause of 25% of all legal proceedings in the NHS . The author continues with the assertion that 'calculation errors that result in medication errors cost the NHS more than £750 million pounds per year'. We can all agree that patient safety is paramount, and the NHS cannot ignore the rising costs related to these errors. This is particularly acute in the current
financial climate, where cuts are being made in the NHS to reduce spending against a backdrop of the single greatest test the NHS has faced since its 1948 inception with the 2020/21 COVID-19 pandemic.
Learn Drugs Calculation and Curb Anxiety
As a maths teacher - I see first hand how anxiety effects the ability of students to grasp even basic mathematical concepts
Whilst, the current pandemic will, in time subside, the ongoing problem of unnecessary deaths and associated costs to the NHS, will not. Barret continues her assertions that drugs calculation errors are not just a symptom of poor maths ability for both student nurses and qualified nurses alike, but a product of the lack of confidence in maths - or put another way - 'maths anxiety'
Indeed, the author of this piece and owner of Nursenet is only all to aware of the impacts of maths anxiety both from a medical standpoint and in the wider population.
As a maths teacher in a modern secondary school I am constantly reminded that most students find maths challenging and students often enter the maths classroom with dread.
Barret infers that maths anxiety are :
'general lack of comfort that someone suffers when they are asked to perform mathematically, it may also be a feeling of helplessness or tension when one is asked to deal with numbers or shapes. People may experience physical discomfort, dry mouth, sweating hands, and psychological symptoms including temporary memory loss or sense of failure or dread.'
In a recent poll conduced by Nursenet, over 50% of respondents stated that their maths ability was either unsecure at best or 'very limited'
I concur - I have seen maths anxiety first- hand in the classroom manifest itself more often than not as physical and emotional breakdown. Moreover, many of the student I teach wish to pursue a career in healthcare and are aware that they need at least grade 4 GCSE to get onto a nursing degree program. Many will, unfortunately, give up on their dreams of becoming a nurse at the first hurdle when in reality, with support and guidance, these 'would- be' nurses could enter the profession if it were not for their fear of the maths .
In a recent poll commissioned by Nursenet using 3 social media channels the results were a stark reminder of the overriding lack of confidence that practicing nurses feel about their own maths ability. Whilst we appreciate that our methodology would not stand up to academic rigor, we do believe the results provide an anecdotal snapshot into drugs calculation competency in the NHS- with over 25% of nurses, citing even basic maths as something beyond their comprehension.
Whilst there is clearly no quick fix- it is our contention that reducing maths anxiety in nurses should be addressed through a consolidated and easily accessible platform for nurses to practice drugs calculations tests without having to sign up to expensive crash course test preparation websites the night before a drugs calculation test. Moreover, whilst there are several 'paid' for providers of maths content targeting nurses - it's pretty unreasonable to expect nurses to have to pay for tuition to provide a service that we ALL benefit from.
To that end, our motivation was simple - build a free maths resource written by maths teachers who know how to scaffold maths content correctly- enabling nurses of all ages and experience access a free website to build their confidence. with the launch of nursenet numeracy in April 2020 the site has been visited over 18,000 times with over 42,000 drugs calculation questions attempted. In our own way- we are trying to reduce maths anxiety in nurses without asking for a penny!