Memory Trick for Remembering Insulin Peak, Onset, and Duration

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Hello, nurses!

Are you having a hard time pinpointing and memorizing the different types of insulin with their peak, onset, and duration? Here’s a nifty trick for you – we will show you how to effortlessly recall the peak, onset, and duration of the different types of insulin. This was a question raised to Mike and is now being answered with clarity and ease.

Remember the peak, onset, and duration of insulin is one of the most confusing topics in nursing pharmacology that a lot of students and nurses are having trouble with. But here’s an easy technique for you.

Insulin Peak

First, we’ll tackle the different types of insulin which are:

  1. Rapid-acting
  2. Short-acting
  3. Long-acting

Long-acting insulin does not have a peak. So you can totally smudge that one problem from your mind and just focus on the other types. Short-term acting insulin is between 4 to 12 hours for NPH while rapid-acting is 30 to 90 minutes.

How can you quickly remember that?

First, remember that your rapid-acting is between 30 to 90 minutes. To recognize that short-acting is 4 to 12 hours, you have to multiply rapid-acting time by four so that will give you around 6 hours for the next dose of short-acting insulin.

An efficient way to remember short-term acting insulin (intermediate-acting insulin) is that they end in “-lin” like Humulin or Novolin. So think of these as short actresses that have the height of 4”12’. In that way, you’ll easily point out that short actresses are 4”12’ tall; meaning the peak of short-acting insulin is between 4 – 12 hours.

Insulin Onset

For rapid-acting insulin, you just need to remember that onset is between 15 to 30 minutes then it immediately peaks at 30 minutes until an hour and a half. Knowing the onset of rapid-acting will immediately prompt you that anything above 30 minutes is your short-term acting insulin. So, the onset of short-term acting insulin is from 30 to 60 minutes and because they are short actresses, they will peak at 4 to 12 hours. If you are able to keep that in mind, it’s easier for you to recall short-term acting insulin.

A Quick Recap

Rapid-acting insulin has an onset of 15 to 30 minutes and peaks between 30 to 90 minutes. Some examples of this type of insulin are Humalog and NovoLog.

Short-acting insulin, which Mike also refers to as “short actresses with a height of 4”12’,” has an onset of 30 to 60 minutes and peaks between 4 to 12 hours. Majority of short-term acting insulin medications end in “-lin” like Humulin and Novolin.

Note: Insulin names of rapid-acting and short-term acting are almost similar it’s just that, it is easier for you to identify short-acting insulin because of the “-lin” attached to the name.

Long-acting insulin does not have a peak although its onset is from one hour until 24 hours.

In Other Topics

On our next topic, we’ll be discussing diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and hyperosmolar hyperglycemic state (HHS). For those who want to find out more about the nursing topics that usually come out of nursing exams, visit us at and indulge yourself to a wide variety of resources to help you cut your study time while effortlessly memorizing everything you need to beat the system and get higher grades.

See you there!