Remembering Beyond the Exam: The Useful Application of Mneumonics, Cartoons, and Simulation
Written By: Katie Murphy, BSN, RN, RRT
Nursing students today are challenged with the need to acquire a large amount of information with the desire to acquire this knowledge as quickly as possible. Students have technology and answers at their fingertips by way of smart phones, the Internet, and tablets. When studying for the next exam, these students are seen searching the Internet to find videos, handouts, and illustrations for the complex topics they are learning in an effort to simplify and remember the information.
All the technology and fast answers are great but do they make students really learn the information? Students study hours on topics to pass quizzes, exams, and finals, but then what happens? Do these students remember this information a week, month, or a year later?
The amount of information that a nursing student has to learn is daunting. Naturally, our brains cannot retain all the information in every detail that was once learned for the exam in school. But wouldn’t it be great if there were tools or techniques to help students not only study for the exam, but also remember and apply the knowledge when caring for a patient?
Mneumonics and catchy phrases are a great way for the brain to retain information. For example, many nurses can remember the mneumonic PQRST when assessing a patient’s pain level: Provocation, Quality, Radiation, Severity, and Time. Yes, over time, a seasoned nurse will automatically remember how to properly assess pain in their patient. But wouldn’t this mneumonic be helpful for the nursing student or new graduate who is just beginning their career? I’m sure I was not the only new graduate silently saying, “White on right, smoke over fire” when applying the color-coded cardiac monitor electrodes to my patient in the beginning of my career.
Illustrations, cartoons, videos, and various graphics are also great tools for the nursing student to integrate and remember the knowledge learned in class. No two people learn exactly the same way and, frankly, students shouldn’t be forced to learn in the same manner. Visual aids are a great way to remember complex topics. If a student is learning about the blood flow through the heart, simply reading in the textbook might not be enough. Seeing a graphic about the direction of blood flow and a cartoon depiction of pump and its representation of the heart brings a complex topic more approachable and easier to learn and remember.
If mneumonics and catchy phrases can be used to help retain information, clinical simulation is used to also develop confidence and critical thinking in nursing students and nurses alike. Clinical simulation, or the use of role-play in a realistic clinical environment, exposes nursing students to realistic clinical scenarios in a safe and non-threatening environment. This allows the student to make mistakes in the simulation and learn from these mistakes in the learning environment where patient harm does not occur. Students have a debriefing period after the simulation to discuss the positives and negatives of the simulation. Students also have an opportunity to ask questions and actively participate in the discussion of the clinical scenario, learning from other students and allowing for self-reflection as well. What is initially learned in class with textbooks and lecture is integrated into a real-life clinical scenario, making it easier for the student to recall the learned knowledge in the future.
Nursing schools have a great history of teaching amazing nurses. The challenge is to have these nurses remember the content that was taught and recall it in a real-life scenario. Looking beyond the textbook and lecture can allow nursing students more opportunities to retain the vital information that is presented to them on a daily basis.