You don’t automatically graduate nursing school automatically knowing everything you need to know. One of the most commonly forgotten med math conversions is “How many CCs are in an ounce.” When you forget seemingly simple things, it’s frustration, but you’re not alone.
An anonymous guest blogger shares her experience with forgetting a common med math conversion. Names and scenarios have been changed to protect patient’s privacy in observance of HIPAA:
How Many CC’s are in an Ounce?
Nursing is hard. The shifts are so long, and your feet are so tired. Sometimes it takes everything in us as nurses to complete the simplest tasks as the day (or night) ticks on.
I was finishing a shift the one day when I went into my patient’s room to see what he had eaten for dinner, record his I’s and O’s, and subsequently collect his tray. Sitting next to his half-eaten meatloaf and potatoes was a 16oz Styrofoam cup that his wife had brought him from the cafeteria.
“Oh honey, I know Larry has to watch how much he drinks, but I wanted to bring him his favorite soda I hope that’s okay! It doesn’t put him over his limit for the day does it?” his sweet wife questioned. I looked at the empty cup and saw that it only said “16 ounces” on the bottom. Oh goodness, my mind raced. Did I really not know how many cc are in an ounce? To further complicate things, I knew that Larry was on a 1.5 L fluid restriction for the day, but then how many cc’s is 16 ounces?
So, how many cc’s are there in an ounce?
I politely left Larry and his wife in the room to sneak to one of the computers in the nursing station to reference my friend google. Right there in front of me, nursing school started to come back: 30cc= 1 ounce. Of course. I had to memorize that for a test at one point, how have I forgotten?
To be honest, I don’t have to do the conversion all that frequently. Still, it is important to keep tucked away somewhere, as is exampled by the case with Larry. Doing the conversion of 16 ounces to cc, I calculated that he had drank almost 1/3 of his daily allotment of fluids just in that one Styrofoam cup. As nurses, part of our job is to educate our patients so they have a successful discharge and follow their appropriate regimen at home. For many of these patients, watching fluid intake is crucial. We must first learn the conversion ourselves and then educate our patients to do so as well in hopes to improve their compliance to their fluid restrictions.
Common Nursing Questions
Besides my pondering of how many ccs are in an ounce, there are a few other conversions that I have used frequently at the bedside. One of the most common: pounds to kilograms. We often have scales now in the hospital that convert the pounds to kilograms for us, but I figure this is just good practice to mention: 1 kg= 2.2 lbs. You may never need to make the conversion yourself, but most of the weight-based medication that we administer is based upon the patient’s kilograms.
Another conversion worth noting is with our temperature. We are accustomed to saying “his temperature is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit”, but in reality hospitals go with the standard of temperature measurement that the rest of the world uses, which is Celsius. So, in case you don’t have a handy cheat sheet right next to you and you’re trying to figure out what the heck your patient’s temperature is in terms that you understand….use this formula:
(Celsius x 1.8) +32=degrees Fahrenheit.
A couple that every nurse and nursing student needs to know:
1 cc = 1 ml
1 l = 1000ml
5 ml = 1 tsp
If you’ve been a nurse longer than a few weeks, you’ll know that this is an important one. As long as the decimal point goes the correct way and you add (or subtract) three zeroes, you’ll be just fine.
Putting it All Together
In my years as a nurse, I’m learning something new every day. That’s one of the beauties of it! One day you learn intense pathophysiology, the next you learn how many ccs are in an ounce. But let’s be honest; we cannot learn and remember it all. As nurses, we learn quickly where to turn when we do have questions. What I would suggest is that you figure out which med conversions you will utilize the most, and memorize them. For the ones that you will only use occasionally, find a book or a website that you trust to give you accurate information. In addition, don’t forget to utilize your hospital pharmacist, who is typically a very valuable resource and is happy to assist. Finding little tricks along the way to help us successfully get through our shifts will ultimately make us a better nurse in the long run.
Med Math and Pharmacology Resources
For more resources on medication math and other drug information check out the MedMaster Pharmacology Course.