Courses & Study Programs

The Foundations of Nursing: How Crucial are Physics & Chemistry?

While physics and chemistry are not mandatory for all nursing programs, they are crucial for understanding medication administration and equipment operation.

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In a world where scientific knowledge forms the bedrock of most professions, the question arises – how deeply are the tendrils of physics and chemistry embedded in the field of nursing? At first glance, nursing may seem disconnected from the realms of physics and chemistry, appearing more aligned with biology and the social sciences. However, a closer look reveals the subtle yet significant interplay of physics and chemistry in the day-to-day responsibilities of a nurse.

Physics and chemistry are not universally required for all nursing programs, but they are important for understanding certain aspects of nursing practice, like medication administration and operating medical equipment. Prerequisites vary by institution, so it’s essential to check the specific requirements of the program you’re interested in.

This article aims to explore the intricate relationship between nursing and these two fundamental branches of science. We will delve into the reasons why some nursing programs require a background in physics and chemistry, the aspects of nursing that involve principles from these fields, and the potential consequences of not having a foundational understanding of these subjects.

Check out “Majoring in Nursing: From Prerequisites to Postgraduate Study and Beyond” by Janet R. Katz, an insightful tour of the nursing profession, addressing misconceptions, showcasing diverse career possibilities, and offering practical advice on becoming a nurse, from choosing the right school to managing job stress.

The Journey into Nursing: A Science-Backed Profession

Embarking on a journey to become a nurse is a commendable decision that involves a dedication to improving and saving lives. A career in nursing demands a strong foundation in various sciences, which is integral to understanding the complexities of the human body and providing the highest level of care.

This article serves as an introduction to the common prerequisites for nursing programs, with a particular focus on the roles of physics and chemistry in nursing education. As a novice in this field, it is crucial to understand the foundational knowledge required to excel in this noble profession.

The Essential Building Blocks: Common Prerequisites for Nursing Programs

Before delving into the specifics of physics and chemistry, it is important to understand the general prerequisites for nursing programs. Nursing education is designed to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of human health, from the cellular level to the entire body system.

To achieve this, nursing programs often require students to have a solid background in various sciences, including biology, anatomy, physiology, microbiology, and, in some cases, physics and chemistry. These subjects form the essential building blocks for understanding the principles of healthcare and are crucial for success in both nursing school and your future nursing career.

The Lifeline of Medicine: Why Chemistry is a Prerequisite

Chemistry is often a required subject for nursing for several reasons, one of the most important being medication administration. Nurses are responsible for administering medications to patients, which requires a thorough understanding of how different substances interact with the human body.

This includes knowledge of the chemical properties of medications, how they interact with other medications, and how they are metabolized by the body. A solid foundation in chemistry is crucial for ensuring safe and effective medication administration.

The Body’s Chemical Symphony: Understanding Bodily Processes

Beyond medication administration, chemistry is fundamental to understanding the various bodily processes that occur on a molecular level. The human body is a complex system of chemical reactions, from the digestion of food to the regulation of hormones.

Understanding these processes is key to assessing a patient’s health and identifying any potential problems. For example, knowing how the body regulates blood sugar levels can help a nurse identify and manage diabetes in a patient. Additionally, understanding the chemical basis of diseases and disorders is essential for effective treatment and management.

The Role of Physics in Nursing

The Hidden Player: Physics in Everyday Nursing Practice

At first glance, physics might not seem directly related to nursing, but it plays a crucial role in various aspects of nursing practice. One key area is the understanding and operation of medical equipment. Many pieces of medical equipment, such as X-ray machines, MRI scanners, and infusion pumps, operate based on principles of physics.

For example, understanding the principles of radiation and magnetism is essential for safely operating and interpreting the results of X-ray and MRI machines. Additionally, physics principles are involved in understanding how the body functions, such as the mechanics of breathing and the circulation of blood.

The Optional Companion: Physics as a Prerequisite or Part of the Curriculum

While not all nursing programs require physics as a prerequisite, some do include it as part of the curriculum. This is because a basic understanding of physics can be helpful for understanding certain aspects of medical equipment and body functions, as mentioned above.

Additionally, some specialized areas of nursing, such as radiology or respiratory therapy, may require a more in-depth understanding of physics. Therefore, while physics may not be a mandatory prerequisite for all nursing programs, it can be a valuable addition to your knowledge base and may be required for certain specialties.

The Mosaic of Prerequisites: Variability Across Borders and Institutions

A Tapestry of Requirements: The Global Variance

Prerequisites for nursing programs can vary significantly by country and educational institution. While there is a core set of subjects that are commonly required, such as biology and anatomy, other subjects like physics and chemistry may or may not be mandatory, depending on the program and location.

For example, in some countries, a foundation in chemistry is considered essential and is, therefore, a mandatory prerequisite. In contrast, other countries may not require chemistry but might include physics as a part of their curriculum. Additionally, some nursing programs might have additional requirements, such as a certain level of math or a specific course in social sciences.

The Key to Your Future: Checking Specific Program Requirements

Given the variability in prerequisites, it is of utmost importance to check the specific requirements of the nursing program you are interested in. This can usually be found on the program’s website or by contacting the admissions office.

It is also important to consider any standardized tests that may be required for admission, as these can also vary by country and institution. For example, some programs may require a standardized test in the sciences, while others may require a general aptitude test. Additionally, some programs may have additional requirements for international students, such as proof of language proficiency.


Embarking on a career in nursing is a noble and rewarding journey that demands a strong foundation in the sciences. The complexities of the human body and the intricacies of medical procedures necessitate a comprehensive understanding of various scientific disciplines.

While biology, anatomy, and physiology are universally accepted as core prerequisites, the requirement for physics and chemistry can vary by institution and region. These subjects, however, play a pivotal role in various aspects of nursing practice, from medication administration and understanding bodily processes to operating medical equipment and understanding body mechanics.

Given the variability in prerequisites across different nursing programs, it is imperative to check the specific requirements of the program you are interested in. While some programs may not require physics or chemistry, having a foundation in these subjects can be beneficial for certain aspects of nursing practice and may be necessary for specialized areas of nursing.

Therefore, it is recommended to check with the specific nursing program you are interested in to see what their prerequisites are, as there may be some variability in requirements. While a strong foundation in the sciences is essential for success in nursing school and your nursing career, the specific prerequisites can vary by program and region.

Therefore, it is recommended to check the specific requirements of your chosen program to ensure that you are adequately prepared for your journey into the world of nursing. With the right preparation and dedication, you can build a successful and rewarding career in this noble profession.