5 BEST Anatomy & Physiology Study Tips for Nursing and Pre-Nursing Students

Anatomy & Physiology is, without a doubt, the most important pre-requisite class you’ll ever take for Nursing School.

Unfortunately, most pre-nursing students never get told that while they’re taking the class…oops.

As a result, there’s a lot of current nursing students who don’t remember A&P as well as they wish they did. And a lot of pre-nursing students who are tempted to “brain dump” after each A&P exam.

That’s why I’m going to share my 5 BEST study tips to help you with Anatomy & Physiology (plus 1 BONUS tip just for current nursing students!). These tips will help you study efficiently and make sure that you are doing everything you can to make memorization and retention a whole lot easier.

And that will make Nursing School easier for you, too.

A&P is Memorization

There’s no getting around it: A&P requires a lot of memorization. Almost everything that you’re learning is normal stuff. You need to know the “what” and the “where” of all the different parts and pieces of the body.

Memorization takes time, and you definitely have to account for that when you plan your study sessions for each exam. But there are strategies you can use to make the memorization quicker and easier! Plus, you can create “memory hooks” that will make it more likely you’ll be able to actually remember the info you’ve worked so hard to study when you get asked about it on the test.

Tip #1: Divide and Conquer

My first tip is all about breaking down each A&P topic into organized, manageable chunks.

Here’s how it works: if you’re studying the skeletal system, don’t try to memorize all 206 bones at once! Instead, divide them up into categories that make sense to your brain.

For example, start with the bones of the skull. Then study the bones of the thoracic (chest) region. Then the arm bones, followed by the hand bones (good news: they’re the same on both sides, lol!)

Breaking it down into smaller chunks not only decreases the overwhelm, but automatically creates a memory hook that will make you more likely to be able to recall the bones within each chunk later on.

Tip #2: Study in Layers

Once you’ve chunked up the memorization, now study it in layers. Start with the “big” concepts, like the name of each bone for the skeletal system.

Once you feel comfortable that you’ve memorized all the names, circle back and study a more detailed layer of the body system. With bones, for example, you would go back and start memorizing the landmarks next (i.e. fossa, condyles, foramen, etc). The landmarks will be easier for you to identify and memorize now, because you already took the time to memorize the bone they are connected to.

And guess what? When you study this way, you’re going to be thanking yourself when you get to the Muscular A&P unit, because guess where each muscle connects? To a bone landmark! So if you do a good job memorizing the skeletal landmarks now, then you’ll have a much easier time memorizing the muscular system later on, too.

Tip #3: Understand the Function

Once you’ve memorized the ‘what’ of each part of the body system, now it’s time to focus on the ‘why.’ You don’t necessarily want to do pure memorization here, but combine it with an understanding of the mechanisms that are going on, often at the molecular level. What is the job of this body part?

Don’t overcomplicate this! One of the main jobs of the skeletal system is to protect the internal organs, and there’s not much more to it than that. But other bones have additional functions, like the production of blood cells. And all bones are able to help regulate electrolytes like calcium and phosphorus levels in the blood.

Adopt a curious attitude! How do bones regulate electrolytes in the blood? Now’s the time to learn about things like osteoclasts and osteoblasts. Take the time to understand what they do.

HINT: Root words can really help you a lot, too! “Osteo” means “relating to bones.” So if you ever see a word, now or later on in nursing school, that contains the root word “osteo”, then you can confidently know that it has something to do with bones, even if you haven’t studied it before.

Tip #4: Short, Frequent Reviews

Your brain memorizes better and faster (believe it or not!) if you study in shorter, more frequent bursts over time. That’s the opposite of cramming, by the way, but I think you knew that already.

This is the reason why…whenever you learn something new, your brain creates new neural connections. And the more you use those connections, the stronger they get. This not only makes you feel more confident that you know the information, but also makes it easier for you to remember it whenever you need to.

However…if you stop using those connections, then your brain is very practical! It assumes that you don’t need those neural connections after all, and will get rid of them. That means that come test time (or when you start core nursing classes…), you’re going to find it hard or impossible to remember all that valuable A&P info you spent so much time studying.

Now, when I say use short, frequent bursts, you can work that into a study session easily. For example, start by memorizing the bones of the skull, practice a few times, then move on to the chest and arms. After you’ve practiced those a bit, return to the skull again to review. Creating a simple study rotation like that can help you “hack” your brain so that it better remembers the A&P facts you’re trying to memorize.

Tip #5: BONUS-Practice Thinking Like a Nurse!

While this is not required for most pre-nursing students (unless A&P is considered one of your core nursing classes, of course), I always recommend that you start incorporating the Silver Bullet Study System into your A&P studying as early as possible. This is going to start training your brain to think like a nurse, which will make your transition into Nursing School a whole lot easier later on.

It’s easy to do, and only takes about 5-minutes. See, most of the memorization you do for A&P would be part of Step 1 of the Silver Bullet Study System anyway. So once you’ve done the memory work, then it’s time to practice thinking about the stuff you memorized!

That’s why I recommend spending a few minutes thinking through Steps 2-4 of the Silver Bullet Study System for the A&P topic you’re studying. You may not know exactly what disease process would occur in that body system, and that’s okay. But Step 2 is where you identify something that could “go wrong”. For example, if you’re studying the skeletal system, which is intended to support the body and protect organs, then what would happen if one of those bones broke?

Then Step 3 is simply a chance for you to predict what would happen if that bone broke! It would hurt, the body would not be as well support (aka you can’t walk on a broken leg!), and some internal organs could potentially be at risk or even damaged by the break (think about the lungs after a rib fracture, or the brain after a skull fracture! Eek!).

Then in Step 4 you think about what could be done for it. Maybe some pain control, and some sort of medical care to set the broken bone back in place until it can heal.

This process doesn’t have to take very long, but it’s a valuable exercise that will get your brain accustomed to thinking like a nurse early on.

Silver Bullet Study System

Whether you’re still pre-nursing, or already a current nursing student, you will always do better in Nursing School if you have a solid foundation of Anatomy & Physiology knowledge.

The Silver Bullet Study System can not only help you prepare for nursing school, though! It can also help you review and remember your A&P even if you took it a long time ago. Almost every time you use the Silver Bullet Study System to study a nursing school topic, you’re going to want to review something about A&P in Step 1. This is always your opportunity to gradually rebuild any A&P that you may have forgotten over time, and to do it in a less overwhelming way.

If you want to learn more about the Silver Bullet Study System, make sure to grab my free 10-minute overview video today!

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