Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Getting a Good Start in your Anatomy & Physiology Course

For those entering the health professions, the human anatomy and physiology course is the arguably the most important—and most difficult—step in their schooling.

To get a good, solid start in A&P, I've pulled together some advice to share with you—things you need to know as you start, so you won't get into trouble you can't get yourself out of.

Learn how to read and raid your textbook

  • You can't just sit down and read an A&P textbook. It's not meant to be read like a novel or magazine. There are steps you need to take to really comprehend the contents, and if you don't take those steps, then you'll be wasting your time.
  • You also need to learn how to raid your A&P textbook.  That means knowing how and where to find information in your book when you need it to solve a problem or clarify something from your class discussion or lab activity.
  • You need to actually use your book.  Many students just set it aside (it looks so big and scary, after all) and never use it to supplement and complement what's going on in other parts of the course.  They often exclaim, "why did I have to buy that thing, when I didn't even use it!"  Yet, by not using it on their own, they are making it much more difficult—and time-consuming—to succeed in their A&P course.  
  • To learn more about how to read and raid your textbook, check out Read and Raid Your Textbook.

Brush up on your study skills

  • Prior to their A&P course, I've found that many students have been successful (or not so successful) in their high-school and college courses by just "winging it." Or by simply taking a few notes in class and reviewing them before a test or exam.  That won't cut it in A&P—no matter how brilliant you are.
  • You need to employ a set of study strategies to be successful.  I've listed just a few of them here, so you have an idea of what I'm saying.  Click on any of the links to find out more.
    • You'll be learning a new language, the language of science and medicine, so learn some basic principles of how that language works.
    • Use flash cards to help you learn new terms right away.  This is a first step before you can master the deep meaning of science concepts.
    • Use concept maps to sketch out the new sets of facts, theories, and principles that you are learning.  By drawing it out, you learn what aspects you've already mastered—and you reveal your weak spots and get them corrected.
    • Use concept lists to help you see connections between concepts you've learned and build a framework for seeing the "big picture" of human structure and function.
    • Manage your time by scheduling several short study sessions every single day. Cramming at the end does not work—and certainly won't prepare you for your later courses, nor your career, both of which rely on a deep understanding of A&P.
    • Study in a group.  Regularly.  Research shows that this is one of the most efficient (time-saving) and effective ways to study pretty much any subject.
    • Take good notes.  If your course involves lectures or online presentations, then take notes.  In lab, take notes.  Reading or raiding your textbook?  Take notes.  Take notes. Take notes.
    • Practice. Practice. Practice.
  • Spend a little time and effort learning effective study strategies. Here are some ways to get started:

Take A&P seriously

An awful lot of students look at the A&P course simply as a hoop that needs to be jumped through—a credential to get down on paper—before getting a degree or certificate needed to start a career.  A more realistic view sees the A&P course as a "first year on the job" experience.  Where you learn most of what you'll need to survive the first day, the next day, and the last day working in your health career.

So, how does one get serious about A&P?  Here are a few tips, with links to more information.
  • Develop habits of professional ethics by acting with academic integrity.
  • Realize that you've really got to learn it all, and learn it correctly.  And yes, spelling is important.
  • Exhibit professional responsibility by working regularly, attending class activities, and  honoring deadlines
  • Get others in your life on board with your plan.  A&P—then your later courses and clinical experiences—are going to temporarily take you away from some of the other responsibilities in your life.  If your friends and family don't realize what you need from them, it'll cause a lot of problems.  So have that discussion now and clarify things.  Need help?  Check out Help Significant Others Help You.