Nurses often use basic arithmetic and algebra on the job. Some nurses, particularly those who work in the public health and epidemiology fields, also use statistics.
Nurses must be able to perform basic calculations to ensure each patient receives the correct amount of medication. If a doctor writes a prescription for 1 milligram of medication per kilogram of body weight, the nurse must be able to convert the patient's weight from pounds to kilograms and determine how many milligrams of medication to administer.
Nurses use addition, subtraction, multiplication and division on a daily basis. A nurse must also be comfortable working with fractions and decimals, using ratios and proportions and converting one unit of measurement to another. Geometry is not used as often as algebra or basic arithmetic, but is helpful when working with orthopedic patients or when using some medical equipment. If a nurse is inserting an IV line, for example, he must insert it at the correct angle to ensure it pierces the vein and delivers medication to the bloodstream. An orthopedic nurse may have to position his patient's limbs at certain angles to ensure they heal properly after joint replacement surgery.
Nursing administrators also use math daily. A unit manager, for example, uses math to determine if she has enough money in the budget to hire a new nurse or pay current staff members overtime to fill in for sick employees.