I'll admit that how I've gone about learning pharmacology has been somewhat unorthodox. I enjoy learning about medicines and chemical agents that have a physiological effect on the body (see what I did there? I bypassed the use of the word 'drugs' ;) ) so, in a way, it has come a bit easier and possibly a bit more naturally to me due to my biochemistry background.
Nonetheless, here are the stages I took to learn pharmacology.
1) Write out the brief details for each commonly prescribed drug.
Using a combination of various textbooks and lecture notes, I'll write out the drug class, indications, side effects, contraindications, interactions and other special points. I usually leave mechanism of action out unless I'm really struggling to remember it (as I'm okay with the mechanism of most medicines that we needed to know for exams this year).
2) Flashcards are amazing for pharm learning!
They can enable you to make piles of them: 'drugs I'm confident with', 'drugs I'm a bit fuzzy on' and 'drugs I definitely need to dedicate more time to' are just three piles I use myself. Plus, they are useful for learning in pairs where you can ask a friend to quiz you and vice versa! I get my sister to quiz me usually because she's not a medic so she can't judge me if I get an obvious thing wrong!
Pictured below are the Rang and Dale Pharmacology Flashcards and some I made myself.
3) Draw things out, over and over!
I learn by doing and also by using pictures/visual aids so for me, this is essential. I use colour, boxes, arrows and try to strip everything down as much as possible.
4) Integrate pharm learning with clinical medicine!
One thing I did was draw out a table of the conditions I needed to know for exams this year and then try and remember the 1st line, 2nd line and 3rd line drugs for them all from memory. This helped me identify gaps and areas of confusion so that I could give them more attention during revision.
5) Test yourself when on the wards with drug charts!
Get hold of a patient's chart and test yourself. What class of drug is it? Why was it prescribed? What else is the patient on - are there any drug interactions? Look at the dose and then compare this with the British National Formulary (there's a phone app for it now - super handy!). Is the drug chart filled in correctly? When was each medication given - is there a particular reason for the timings? Etc, etc.
Furthermore, relating a drug to a patient you've seen makes it that much easier to remember what the drug is, why it was prescribed and the effect it had on them.
Ultimately, pharmacology is a balance between memorisation and understanding the mechanism of action of the drugs. I personally enjoy pharmacology learning and I can't, for the life of me, tell you why - I think it's just one of those weird things about me. My memory has always been pretty good so maybe that's why?
Do you have any tips? I'm always looking for ways to improve my pharm knowledge!