Building the Basics: Decimals

Decimals are numbers that show parts of whole numbers.

Decimals are used in nursing and healthcare during medication administration or when calculating the weight of a patient. Electronic devices such as pumps used to administer medication doses to patients have metric calibrations, which need to be programmed to run at the correct rate to give the patient the correct dose of medication. Nurses administer medications from a variety of syringes. Each syringe has calibration marks to show parts of a whole milliliter, and the nurse must be able to accurately read those calibrations in order to prepare the correct amount of medication to administer.

Decimals are written using a decimal point (dot, like this 3.4). This number would be read as 'three point four' or 'three and fourth tenths'.

Decimals are related to fractions and percentages, and it can be useful to memorise some common conversions.

0.5 = 0.50 1/2 50%
0.33333333 1/3 33%
0.25 1/4 25%
0.2 = 0.2000 1/5 20%
0.1 1/10 10%