Paramedic student anxiety levels towards topics in applied pharmacology at a regional university in Australia

Matthew R Caffey, James W Crane, Matthew F Ireland


Introduction:  Anxiety has a significant impact on undergraduate learning and attrition rates.  Learning pharmacology is a potentially significant area of anxiety among healthcare students, particularly paramedic students, but there is a lack of education literature addressing the way these students learn this material. This study aimed to determine the level of anxiety experienced by 2nd year paramedic students in relation to applied pharmacology concepts.

Methods:  Using a cross-sectional survey, students were asked regarding their perceived levels of anxiety related to applied pharmacology concepts. Students ranked areas of anxiety from highest to lowest and were able to respond with short answers to questions regarding what was easy or hard to learn about pharmacology and their beliefs regarding how the teaching of pharmacology could be improved.

Results:  A 140 students completed the two-part survey. Dosages (69%) and mechanism of action (70%) were ranked by students to be topics that generated the most anxiety.  Additionally, dose calculations, rote learning and the number of medications were shown to be other areas of higher anxiety. Students reported feeling less anxious about concepts such as indication or contraindications.

Conclusion:  Specific areas of applied pharmacology such as mechanism, dosages and memorisation produced feelings of anxiety in paramedic students. It is accepted that anxiety can interfere with both the acquisition and consolidation phases of learning in addition to disrupting the recall of learned information. Therefore, the results of this study indicate that strategies to reduce the stress levels of paramedic students could improve outcomes in pharmacology subjects. 


Paramedic students; student anxiety; pharmacology; science anxiety; education

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