Total life saver! Maths skills in medicine

maths careers
You might be surprised by how many maths skills are used in health jobs! Such important tools. Image: Shutterstock

The maths topics you’re learning today help healthcare professionals save lives, everyday

“We use maths and data in the medical field all the time, from measuring a patient’s vitals to interpreting public health statistics or calculating the potential spread of a global pandemic!

Maths careers
Professor Erwin Loh uses numbers every day on the job.

“In my job, I look at numbers, graphs and charts everyday to make sure our hospitals are running smoothly and efficiently, and patients are getting the best possible care. If you have your sights set on a career in medicine or health, then numeracy is an important skill to add to your toolkit.”

Professor Erwin loh, Group Chief Medical Officer &
Group General Manager of Clinical Governance, St Vincent’s Health Australia

Statistics and probability

In school, you might be learning the probability of throwing two 3s with dice and wonder why it even matters if you’re not into board games! But in the health sector, statistics play a crucial role. For example, in public health, they have helped us to understand and put the brakes on a global pandemic. Statistics are also applied when looking for patterns in genetic data, whether in an individual genome or across populations.

The jobs: Biostatistician, Bioinformatician, Epidemiologist, Geneticist, Molecular biologist, Public health physician

Fractions, conversions and ratios

The maths involved in calculating the safe and effective dosage of a medication for an individual (based on factors such as their age and body weight) can mean the difference between saving a life or causing a dangerous overdose!

The jobs: Pharmacist, General practitioner, Toxicologist, Nurse, Oncologist, Physician

Equations and formulas

Equations aren’t just about calculating the sides of triangles and drawing graphs – they can be used to calculate crucial health information, such as how much oxygen the blood can carry, and figure out drug dosages.

The jobs: Pharmacist, General practitioner, Researcher, Nurse, Pathologist, Optometrist

Basic arithmetic

There are few walks of life where basic arithmetic (addition, subtraction, division and multiplication) doesn’t come in handy – and working in the health sector is no exception!

Monitoring vitals (such as pulse, blood pressure, temperature) is the first step in pretty much any healthcare interaction and requires foundational knowledge of whole numbers, decimals, fractions and more.

The jobs: Physiotherapist, Paramedic, Nurse, General practitioner, Surgeon, Physicist

Geometry

You might be surprised by the diverse applications of the field of geometry in real life – and yep, health is one of them! For example, geometry concepts would be involved in 3D modelling a tumour, to help healthcare professionals with a treatment plan, such as for a complicated surgery.

The jobs: Researcher, Oncologist, Optometrist, Surgeon, Radiotherapist

This article originally appears in Careers with STEM: Maths & Data 2022.

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Gemma Chilton

Author: Gemma Chilton

Gemma is the Managing Editor of Careers with STEM magazine. She has previously worked as Digital Managing Editor at Australian Geographic and a staff writer at Cosmos science magazine.

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