Do You Need Physics For Nursing? Discover the Truth Here!

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Aspiring nursing students, look no further! We have heard it before – that to be a nurse, you don’t need physics. But is this really true?

In this article, we’ll clarify whether physics is indeed necessary for those who want to pursue nursing as their career path. We will explore the various ways in which understanding physics can enhance your skills and knowledge as a nurse.

“To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.” -Nelson Mandela

We know that selecting a major can be overwhelming, especially when there are certain prerequisites that seem like they aren’t related to your chosen field. However, we urge you to read on before making any conclusions.

You may think that since nursing primarily involves medical theories or hands-on practices, understanding physics doesn’t matter. Nevertheless, science courses intersect with one another more frequently than some learners anticipate.

By completing an intro-level physics course, you gained several tools such as quantitative analysis and scientific reasoning that could benefit nursing research and practice immensely. In general, learning about forces, mechanics, and how things move or interact offers insight into physical systems that you wouldn’t ordinarily pick up through other disciplines.

The truth might surprise you- let’s get started!

What is Nursing?

Nursing is one of the most noble professions in the world. A nurse is a healthcare professional who works closely with doctors and other medical practitioners to provide care for patients. Nurses are responsible for monitoring and assessing their patients’ health, providing medication and treatment plans, and advocating for their patients’ wellbeing.

Beyond direct patient care, nurses also have important administrative duties such as managing patient records, coordinating with other healthcare providers and facilities, and ensuring that clinical protocols are being followed effectively.

The Definition of Nursing

Nursing can be defined as a science and an art that focuses on promoting, maintaining, and restoring human health through skilled and compassionate care. According to the American Nurses Association (ANA), nursing encompasses “the protection, promotion, and optimization of health and abilities, prevention of illness and injury, facilitation of healing, alleviation of suffering through the diagnosis and treatment of human response, and advocacy in the care of individuals, families, communities, and populations”.

This definition highlights the holistic approach nurses take towards their patients, with a focus not only on physical health but also emotional and social wellness. It emphasizes the critical role nurses play in leading and enabling effective teamwork across different healthcare domains, cultures, and disciplines.

The Importance of Nursing

“Nurses may not heal your disease, but they will heal your soul.” -Anonymous

The contributions of nurses have played a vital role in improving public health outcomes and advancing healthcare practices worldwide. They represent the largest group of healthcare workers globally, and serve as frontline responders in crises like pandemics, natural disasters or humanitarian emergencies.

Nursing has also become highly specialized over time, with nurses trained in areas such as pediatrics, oncology, emergency medicine, and critical care. These nurses play an essential role in delivering tailored, specialized care to patients based on their unique needs.

While nursing is a rewarding career, it can be challenging, physically demanding and emotionally exhausting at times. Nurses are exposed to high-stress work environments with long hours, complex patient cases and intense academic requirements. Therefore, nurses need to have excellent communication skills, problem-solving abilities, and strong ethical principles to succeed as practitioners.

“Nursing is not for everyone. It takes a very strong, compassionate person to take the work of caring for seriously ill people day-in and day-out.” -Cheryl Wagner

Nursing is a highly respected profession that requires a combination of technical expertise, empathy, professionalism, and care. While you do not need to study physics specifically to become a nurse, knowledge in other sciences like biology, anatomy, and chemistry will prove beneficial in providing effective patient care. A career in nursing offers continuous opportunities for growth, personal development, and making meaningful positive impacts on individuals and communities around the world.

What is Physics?

Physics is the natural science that deals with the study of matter, energy, and their interactions. It encompasses a wide range of phenomena from the smallest subatomic particles to the largest observable structures in the universe.

Physics has been instrumental in shaping our modern world, with its discoveries leading to revolutionary breakthroughs in technology, medicine, and communication. However, physics is not just about memorizing equations and formulas but involves critical thinking and problem-solving skills.


Mechanics is one of the branches of physics that deals with motion, forces, and energy. A sound understanding of mechanics forms the foundation for many fields, including engineering, architecture, and sports science.

In nursing, an example of mechanics would be the application of principles like force and friction when moving patients or heavy equipment safely. Furthermore, nurses must take into account the mechanical properties of different medical devices such as ventilators or infusion pumps.


Thermodynamics is another important branch of physics that studies the behavior of heat and temperature in systems. This field helps us understand how energy flows in chemical reactions, engines, and power plants.

Nurses also utilize thermodynamics in various clinical settings, especially regarding patient health. For example, monitoring body temperature through thermometers helps evaluate their condition while administering medication at appropriate temperatures ensures effectiveness and safety.


Electromagnetism is concerned with the interaction between electrically charged particles and magnetic fields. From generating electricity to powering motors, this field’s applications are widespread in everyday life, industry, and research.

For nursing, electromagnetism plays a vital role in imaging and radiation therapy for diagnosing and treating patients’ conditions. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines that utilize magnetic fields and radio waves to produce images help doctors diagnose injuries and diseases noninvasively.

Quantum Mechanics

Quantum mechanics is the branch of physics that studies the behavior of matter and energy on extremely small scales, including atoms and subatomic particles. It has led to many technological advancements in telecommunications, computing, and cryptography.

Nurses indirectly apply quantum mechanics through administering radiation treatments used to treat cancerous tumors. This treatment involves damaging the tumor cells by changing their atomic structure without harming nearby healthy tissue.

“Physics is a way of thinking about nature.” – Dr. Monica Plisch

While nurses may not need to memorize each law or theorem, physics’ fundamental principles are essential when it comes to providing quality healthcare. Understanding how systems interact with energy and forces helps ensure that procedures and protocols are followed safely and efficiently. Moreover, familiarity with concepts like thermodynamics, electromagnetism, and mechanics can spark innovation and creative solutions to complex problems in nursing.

Why Do People Think Nursing Requires Physics?

Nursing is a noble profession, but many aspiring nurses have grown wary of the idea that they need to be adept in physics to succeed in it. While the relationship between nursing and physics may not be immediately obvious, there are reasons why they go hand-in-hand.

Medical Physics

Medical physics is one reason why people associate nursing with physics. Medical physics involves applying principles from physics to solve problems related to medicine. Nurses who have a solid foundation in medical physics can better interpret data from imaging scans such as X-rays, CT scans and MRIs. This knowledge helps them understand how to position patients for optimal image results while minimizing their exposure to ionizing radiation. They can also identify potential issues with machines or tests that rely on physical laws to operate correctly. Medical physics, hence, plays an important role in patient care by ensuring accurate diagnoses and appropriate treatment plans.

“Radiology used to be called ‘physics’ because it was mostly based on the technology of physics.” -Nancy M. Cappello

Additionally, understanding medical physics empowers nurses to provide better care for patients receiving radiation therapy for cancer treatment. Radiation therapy works by using high-energy photons, which physicists measure accurately across the body before outlining target volumes (such as tumors). Nurses monitor these treatments and help educate patients about necessary precautions to minimize risks both during and after treatment.

“I have always been drawn toward medical physics,” said Candace Culbertson, Clinical Applications Specialist and MSK Liaison for Radformation. “The work we do has implications for people’s lives in ways I never imagined 10 years ago.”


Another area where nurses benefit greatly from understanding fundamental concepts of physics is biomechanics. Biomechanics applies the principles and methods of physics to study biological systems, such as the human body. Nurses with a strong grasp on this area, therefore, understand how different forces act upon the human body in various situations.

For example, nurses need to monitor patients’ vital signs, administer medications, insert catheters, and draw blood – work which involves understanding the principles of fluids and materials science from physics. Biomechanical knowledge also comes into play when moving patients who have limited mobility or require support while standing or walking. A nurse’s ability to transfer a patient safely relies heavily on an understanding of Newtonian mechanics, including center of gravity, force vectors, friction, and statics.

“All healthcare professionals should be able to communicate expertly with one another across their disciplines,” said Myra Aud, PhD, senior associate director of research programs for Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station Biomedical Engineering Program at Baylor University.”

In addition to these practical applications, studies have shown that gaining understanding of physics can improve critical thinking skills overall. It is clear that physics isn’t just for engineering students; it can benefit individuals in many professions, especially nursing.

Final Thoughts

Physics plays an important role in nursing – both in medical physics and biomechanics. Knowledge of physical principles equips nurses to make accurate diagnoses, clinical decisions, perform intricate procedures, and respond effectively to emergencies via proper positioning or by enabling smoothly controlled handling of heavy equipment and machinery. In other words, nurses who have an excellent understanding of physics are better safe than sorry!

Is Physics a Prerequisite for Nursing?

Nursing is a profession that requires knowledge of different subjects, including biology, chemistry, anatomy, and physiology. But what about physics? Is it necessary for nursing students to study this subject before starting their program?

Basic Physics Concepts

Physics is the study of matter, energy, and the interaction between them. It covers several areas such as mechanics, thermodynamics, electromagnetism, optics, and atomic and nuclear physics. In essence, physics helps us understand how things work, from the smallest particles to the largest structures in the universe.

In terms of nursing, understanding basic physics concepts can be useful in many ways. For example, nurses need to know how gravity affects patients and objects, especially when dealing with those who cannot move or reposition themselves. They also need to know the principles of pressure, fluid dynamics, and oxygenation, all of which are essential in treating patients with respiratory problems.

Alternative Courses for Nursing Students

While some nursing programs may require physics as a prerequisite, others do not. Instead, they may offer alternative courses that cover similar topics but with a more healthcare-oriented approach. For example:

  • Biomechanics: This course focuses on how the human body moves and responds to external forces and stresses. It is particularly relevant to orthopedics, sports medicine, and rehabilitation.
  • Bioengineering: This course combines biological and engineering principles to develop new medical devices, technologies, and procedures. It is particularly relevant to surgery, imaging, and diagnostics.
  • Healthcare Physics: This course covers the applications of physics in various healthcare settings, such as radiation therapy, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, and laser surgery. It is particularly relevant to oncology, radiology, and cardiology.

By taking these courses, nursing students can still gain a solid understanding of physics concepts while focusing on their future career goals. Moreover, they can apply these concepts in real-world situations that are specific to healthcare, such as patient monitoring, wound healing, or drug delivery.

The Importance of Basic Math

Although physics may not be mandatory for all nursing students, basic math skills are essential. Nurses need to calculate medication dosages, fluid rates, nutritional intake, and vital sign values accurately and quickly. They also need to interpret graphs, charts, and tables related to patients’ conditions and treatments.

In addition, nurses need to have critical thinking and problem-solving skills, which are closely linked to mathematical abilities. They need to analyze complex data, assess risks and benefits, prioritize tasks, and make informed decisions under pressure. These skills are crucial for providing safe and effective care to patients and collaborating with other healthcare professionals.

The Influence of Technology on Nursing

As technology advances, so does its impact on the nursing profession. Many healthcare devices and systems rely on physics principles to function properly. For example:

  • Ventilators: These machines use air pressure and flow rate to deliver oxygen and remove carbon dioxide from the lungs of patients who cannot breathe on their own.
  • Pacemakers: These devices use electricity and magnetism to regulate the heart rate of patients with arrhythmias or heart failure.
  • Laser equipment: This equipment uses light energy to perform various procedures, such as removing tumors, cauterizing wounds, or reshaping corneas.

Nurses need to know how to operate and troubleshoot these devices, as well as follow safety protocols and monitor patients’ responses. They also need to know how to document their actions accurately and communicate with other healthcare team members through electronic records.

“Technology can never replace the art of nursing, but it can enhance its practice.” -Tim Porter-O’Grady

While physics may not be a prerequisite for nursing in all programs, understanding its basic concepts can be beneficial. Nursing students who do not take physics courses can still gain relevant knowledge by taking alternative courses that focus on healthcare applications of physics principles. However, mathematical skills are essential for all nurses, regardless of their specialization. Moreover, technology plays an increasingly important role in modern nursing, requiring nurses to have both technical and interpersonal competencies.

What Other Courses Are Required for Nursing?

Besides the core nursing courses, students who are pursuing a degree in nursing will need to complete coursework in subjects such as anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, psychology, and sociology. These courses will provide aspiring nurses with the skills and knowledge they need to provide safe, effective care to their patients.

Anatomy and Physiology

Anatomy is the study of the structures and parts of organisms, while physiology is the study of biological function. In nursing, understanding both is essential as it helps healthcare professionals to diagnose various medical conditions accurately and develop treatments that influence function based on structure. affirms these foundational courses necessary before advancing with other course areas within the nursing program like microbiology, nutrition, and even patient assessment.

Nurses who thoroughly understand human anatomy and physiology can help in many ways. They might assist doctors during surgeries or conduct routine health assessments for their patients. They could also help patients recover from injuries or illnesses by assisting them with physical therapy regimens or medication therapies as an ancillary effort to other doctors’ prescribed plans. Students seeking a career in nursing should expect to take extensive coursework in both anatomy and physiology.


Nurses must have knowledge of medications, including everything from how drugs are administered to drug reactions and interactions. Pharmacology prepares future nurses on their path towards becoming registered nurses(RNs); the background trains them on using empirical-based evidence to prescribe medications. After all, administering medicines to folks has no room for errors.

Sometimes, RNs may face ethical dilemmas regarding medicine administration. Some patients may refuse medication due to religious beliefs, cost-related issues(in America), or fear of side effects. Here is where tertiary education comes into play; training unravels possibilities of alternative medications, how to handle such scenarios while allocating patient-centered care. Studying pharmacology early in the nursing programs ensures informed RNs who understand and appreciate medication use, proper storage, dosing procedures of prescribed medicine.

Psychology and Sociology

Apart from anatomy/ physiology and pharmacology courses, students pursuing a nursing degree need some background understanding of psychology and sociology. Psychology deals with how people think, act or behave, altered mental health(which is quite prevalent today), and approaches for addressing mental conditions. Sociology covers broader scope like societies issues communities, cultures, norms that may impact negatively on patients being cared for. Thus subfields help nurses communicate better and address conflicting concerns (emotional experience) related to health situations critical when providing empathy-sparked quality healthcare. Although these fields are not core areas in nursing, they provide vital information dictated by professionals as necessary foundational elements for aspiring nursing students in universities globally.

“It’s important for nurses to develop an excellent bedside manner because patients need reassurance and human interaction during medical treatment.”- Vicki Luoma Lynch.

Nursing students require several courses outside the core nursing curriculum to graduate fully equipped and ready to care for their patients efficiently. Students will complete coursework across various subjects, including anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, psychology, and sociology. By successfully completing these courses and obtaining qualifications, future nurses have the ability, skillset, and solid foundation enabling them to make sound medical decisions and deliver patient-centered care whenever the need arises.

How Important is Physics Knowledge in Nursing?

Many people wonder if physics knowledge is essential for nursing. While biology and anatomy are crucial, physics also plays an important role in the healthcare field.

Understanding Medical Equipment

One important aspect of physics in nursing is understanding how medical equipment works. Nurses work with a variety of machines such as ventilators, infusion pumps, defibrillators, and more. They must understand the technical aspects of these devices to ensure they function properly and deliver accurate readings.

This is where physics comes in. Understanding concepts such as pressure, volume, and electricity ensures that nurses can interpret data from these medical devices correctly. Furthermore, it allows them to use precision instruments accurately and troubleshoot common problems efficiently. Therefore, having adequate knowledge of physics basics is critical for nurses who want to handle complex equipment confidently and safely.

Interpreting Medical Research

Another vital aspect of physics in nursing is interpreting studies related to the healthcare sector. In the modern era, technology and science have significantly advanced rapidly over the years, resulting in many new treatments and therapies.

A nurse’s job involves working alongside other healthcare professionals on patient care teams. Interpreting medical research involves being able to determine the best evidence-based practices to improve treatment outcomes. It helps to evaluate the scientific claims made by medical manufacturers concerning new drug therapies or diagnostic technologies.

Acquiring good comprehension of physics concepts such as mechanics, optics, and radiation provides a solid foundation for interpreting medical studies effectively. A deep appreciation of experimental design and statistical analysis underlying clinical decisions gives nurses insight into evaluating the credibility of specific tests and implementing the latest standards of care effectively

“Removing the gravitational pull towards bad ideas takes great energy.” -David Helfand

Having a strong foundation in physics is necessary for nurses to work efficiently. It enables them to understand how medical equipment works and to troubleshoot issues that arise when working with these machines. Furthermore, it helps nurses to interpret medical research studies correctly and make informed decisions related to patient care. Being proficient in physics concepts allows nurses to provide quality care with confidence.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is physics required for nursing programs?

Most nursing programs require at least one physics course as a prerequisite or corequisite. Physics provides a foundation for understanding the principles of anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology that are essential to nursing practice. Additionally, physics coursework helps students develop critical thinking skills and problem-solving strategies that are useful in clinical settings.

How does physics apply to nursing?

Physics applies to nursing in multiple ways. Nurses use physics concepts to understand the behavior of fluids, gases, and solids in the human body. They also use physics principles to calculate medication dosages, interpret diagnostic test results, and operate medical equipment. Understanding physics concepts allows nurses to provide safe and effective care to their patients.

What physics concepts are important for nursing students to understand?

Several physics concepts are important for nursing students to understand, including motion, force, energy, and electricity. Understanding these concepts helps students understand how the body functions, how medications work, and how medical equipment operates. Additionally, understanding physics concepts helps students develop critical thinking skills and problem-solving strategies that are essential for nursing practice.

Can you become a nurse without studying physics?

While some nursing programs do not require physics coursework, many do. Even if physics is not required, understanding physics concepts can be beneficial for nursing practice. Students who do not study physics may have a harder time understanding some of the principles of anatomy, physiology, and pharmacology that are essential to nursing practice.

What resources are available to help nursing students with physics coursework?

Several resources are available to help nursing students with physics coursework, including textbooks, online tutorials, and study groups. Many nursing programs also offer tutoring services or academic support centers. Additionally, students can reach out to their professors or academic advisors for additional assistance or resources.

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