5 Nursing Antibiotics in Under 5 Minutes [Updated for 2020]

Here are 5 nursing antibiotics you can learn in under 5 minutes:


Nursing antibiotics seem to be a little bit scary to take on, so we’ll do a basic hit list of five common classes that you’ll need to know for your exams, clinicals, and even the NCLEX®! Don’t forget that there are some high-tested points associated with these drugs, so we will lay out some points to help you remember.

1) Tetracyclines

Tetris Cycle

Tetracyclines end in the suffix “-cycline.” Indications for these medications include things such as infectious diseases, acne and periodontal disease. A commonly-tested education point to remember here, is that they should not be given with milk, antacids or iron.

Now, moving on to side effects, important things to note are that tetracyclines cause bone deformities and teeth discoloration. For this reason, they shouldn’t be administered to children under the age of eight, or to pregnant women. Boom! Easy!

2) Aminoglycosides

Amigo Glider

Aminoglycosides end in the suffix “-mysin.” Although there are other drugs that end in “-mysin,” you can remember the aminoglycosides by the mnemonic GNATS; standing for gentamicin, neomycin, amikacin (the tricky outlier), tobramycin, and finally, streptomycin. Remember, we love antibiotic mnemonics! 

Most importantly, these drugs have the potential to have toxic side effects, such as nephrotoxicity and ototoxicity. If a patient who is taking an aminoglycoside is complaining of ringing of the ears, it should clue you in as a red flag. Because of the toxic side effects, it is important to measure peak and trough levels for patients taking these drugs. Woo, got that one down!

3) Macrolides

Macaroni Lights

Next batter up; macrolides. Macrolides are broad-spectrum antibiotics that end in “-thromysin.” To help you remember the macrolide antibiotics, just remember the acronym “ACE,” for azithromycin, clarithromycin and erythromycin. Another mnemonic for antibiotics? Sure! These drugs are commonly given for respiratory infections, and are often used as an alternative for patients with a penicillin allergy.

As a warning here: these drugs can cause dysrhythmias from QT segment prolongation, and they also have an association with C. difficile overgrowth (especially clarithromycin).

When these drugs are indicated for an IV infusion, remember that the medication should be diluted and administered slowly to prevent the common problem of thrombophlebitis.

4) Cephalosporins

Chef Spore Head

Moving on to number four: cephalosporins. Instead of having a common ending, the drugs in this class have a prefix, which is “cef-,” with the exception of cephalexin. The important exam point to remember here is that cephalosporins are the drugs that we give when a patient is allergic to penicillin.

Educate the patient to especially avoid alcohol with these drugs, as their concurrent use can induce a state of alcohol intolerance. Easy enough, right?


5) Fluoroquinolones

Flower Queen

Last but not least, our dear friends, are the fluoroquinolone antibiotics. These drugs end in “-floxacin.” Important commonly-tested teaching points: avoid taking these drugs with milk or antacids.

Notably, GI distress is a common side effect with these drugs. Additionally, another commonly tested fact here, although rare, is that fluoroquinolones can cause Achilles tendon rupture. With this in mind, if the patient complains of tendon pain, inflammation or swelling, the medication should be immediately discontinued.

So there you have a quick hit list of important nursing antibiotics and some little tidbits to know. Need an easier way to help remember antibiotics? Be sure to check out these and tons more inside Picmonic!

Good luck studying!


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Marlee Liberman

Marlee Liberman, RN, Master Nursing Scholar

As a registered nurse, Marlee understands the struggles that nursing school throws at you – not to mention the overwhelming pressure preparing for the NCLEX®! Marlee brings a unique skill set and perspective to Picmonic with her previous degree in broadcast journalism, her creativity in video production, and her wandering nomad lifestyle. Her blend of talents provides her with the knack for simplifying complicated concepts and demystifying the world of nursing.

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