Since you’re here, I’m guessing that you’re preparing to take the TMC Exam soon. If so, I have good news. Our materials have already helped thousands of students pass the exam and I have a good feeling that you can do the same. 

In this article, we’re focusing on Pharmacology. To be more specific, we’re going to share some tips and tricks about the medications that you need to know in order to pass the TMC Exam. 

So if you’re ready, let’s go ahead and dive right in.

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Pharmacology Tips for the TMC Exam:

1. Basics of Pharmacology

There will be several questions on the exam that involve pharmacology in some way, shape, or form.

So plain and simple — you MUST know your medications!

I realize that you’ve already covered all of this stuff in Respiratory Therapy School. So the goal of this article isn’t to re-teach you all of the medications again. Instead, the goal to bring the most important topics to your attention so that you can make sure you familiarize yourself and prepare adequately.

With that said, I’m not going to list out every single medication that you need to know. But in general, just be sure to remember:

  • Ultrashort acting medications
    Example – Epinephrine
  • Short-acting medications
    Example – Albuterol
  • Long-acting medications
    Example – Arformoterol (Brovana)
  • Ultralong acting medications
    Example – Tiotropium bromide (Spiriva)

Also, it should go without saying, but definitely be sure that you know all of the inhaled beta-agonist and anticholinergic bronchodilators.

  • Short-acting beta agonists are rescue drugs used to relieve acute bronchospasm.
  • Long-acting beta agonists are controller or maintenance medications.

Again, we’re not going to list them all out for you here. Just be sure to spend some time looking over this information in your study guide.

2. Drug Doses

I think you’ll be happy to hear this tip.

You do not need to worry about memorizing the specific doses for all the different types of drugs. The NBRC typically doesn’t ask for the specific dose in the questions on the exam. 

I know, right, hallelujah! 🙏

However, there is one exception to this rule:

It may be a good idea to remember that a standard SVN dose for albuterol because you could potentially see it on the exam.

Albuterol SVN: 0.5 mL (2.5 mg) given 3–4 times per day.

But other than that, there’s no reason to learn or memorize the specific drugs doses for the TMC Exam. So with that said, let’s keep moving right along.

3. Anti-Infective Agents

You may see a question about some of the anti-infective medications.

Here are a few things that you should remember:

  • TOBI – Tobramycin is used to treat cystic fibrosis patients.
  • Ribavirin – Used to treat RSV in children. It must be administered with a SPAG.
  • Pentamidine – Often used for the treatment of AIDS.

4. Diuretics

If you’ve been reading any of our materials for any amount of time, then you already know this. But just in case, remember that whenever you have a patient that is fluid overloaded, you should recommend a diuretic agent such as Lasix.

The signs of fluid overload include:

  • Peripheral edema
  • Jugular venous distention
  • Crackles on auscultation
  • Shortness of breath

If the patient is wheezing due to fluid overload, giving a bronchodilator is not going to do any good. You should recommend a diuretic medication instead.

Inside the course, we share our best tips, tricks, and insights that students are using to pass the exam.

5. Pain Medicine

Analgesics are medications that control or block pain. You should be familiar with the common narcotic drugs that are given for pain, such as Morphine.

You will likely see a question from this section on the exam, so keep reading.

A common problem that we see as Respiratory Therapists is patients that have overdosed on narcotic medications. This is a serious situation because a narcotic overdose causes apnea and respiratory depression which may result in the need for intubation and mechanical ventilation.

What should you recommend for a patient with a narcotic overdose? Do you know?

Remember this for the exam:

You can reverse a narcotic overdose with the drug Narcan.

I can almost guarantee that you will see a question about Narcan (Naloxone) on the exam, so prepare accordingly.

6. Endotracheal Instillation

There are certain drugs that can be given or distilled directly down the endotracheal tube into the airway.

To make it easier to remember, you can learn the NAVEL mnemonic.

Here are the drugs:

  • N – Naloxone (Narcan)
  • A – Atropine
  • V – Vasopressin
  • E – Epinephrine
  • L – Lidocaine

And of course, don’t forget that surfactant can also be directly instilled in neonates with RDS.

Remember that when directly instilling medications down the ET tube, you have to administer 2 to 2.5 times more of the medication than the normal dose in order for it to be effective.

Also, you must dilute the drug with 10 mL of saline or sterile water.

7. Xanthine Drugs

This are another type of medication that you could possibly see a question about on the exam.

The two types include:

  • Theophylline
  • Caffeine

This is a short tip. I just wanted to at least mention this here for you. The main thing I want you to remember about these two drugs is this:

They can be used to treat apnea of prematurity in infants.

Also, theophylline is effective in treating patients with Cheyne-Stokes breathing as well.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it. I truly hope that you found this information about Pharmacology to be helpful. If so, I‘ll be honest with you.

This is only a small sample of what I really want to share with you. We have tips and tricks (similar to the ones you just read) for every single section of the TMC Exam. That’s right — we want to share with you the most important stuff that you MUST know in order to pass the exam.

And the good news is, you can get access now inside of our Hacking the TMC Exam video course.


The following are the sources that were used while doing research for this article:

  • Faarc, Gardenhire Douglas EdD Rrt-Nps. Rau’s Respiratory Care Pharmacology. 10th ed., Mosby, 2019.
  • Faarc, Kacmarek Robert PhD Rrt, et al. Workbook for Egan’s Fundamentals of Respiratory Care. 12th ed., Mosby, 2020.
  • “Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT).” The National Board of Respiratory Care, Accessed 8 July 2020.
Inside the course, we share our best tips, tricks, and insights that students are using to pass the exam.

Inside the course, we reveal our most important tips, tricks, and insights that you absolutely must know in order to increase your chances of passing the exam. And that is exactly why so many students are having success after going through the course.

So if you’re interested, definitely consider checking it out.

Thanks again for reading all the way to the end. I wish you the best of luck on your journey and as always, breathe easy my friend.

Medical Disclaimer: The information provided by Respiratory Therapy Zone is for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult with a physician with any questions that you may have regarding a medical condition.