One of the things that is considered “bad” about medical studies and thereby the medical profession is that it is totally dependant on “memory”. All you need to do is “memorise” things and then recollect them at the right moment. While this cannot be said to be entirely false, it can’t be said to be entirely true either.
It is true that we need to “remember” a lot of things (I’m not using the word “memorise” here). Most of the things that we need to remember are “names”, names of body organs, muscles, arteries, nerves, diseases and conditions etc. But if you observe carefully, everyone has to remember names, not just medical people. In daily life, we have to remember names of people, names of streets, roads, buildings, cars and even things like gadgets, phones and websites. This apart, speaking of academics too, those professionals other than medical also have to remember a lot of names. For example, computer engineers use words like Java, API, GUI, CSS, HTML and so on, which are equally, if not more- the way I feel, intimidating than the “medical” terms. Medical terms are atleast intuitive and guessable as they use Greek and Latin roots but these abbreviations engineers use are simply not.
The point is that we need not feel that we’re faced with something difficult, because we actually aren’t. This apart, we can always try to make things easy. If we consider “memory” and “intelligence” as separate things (though I highly doubt whether they are) then I can surely say that intelligence can help memory a lot. Using tricks and shortcuts, things can become surprisingly easier to memorise.
One of these is the use of “Mnemonics”. It is a word or a sentence or anything similar which helps remember things. A mnemonic should be catchy- one should never be able to forget the mnemonic itself. The best mnemonics are those which produce some emotion- the most common emotion utilised is humour or disgust. It means that the funnier the mnemonic is, the better. Similarly, though many people might disagree, the more vulgar a mnemonic is, the better. It may look indecent or even disgusting, the reason they may not be taught openly by teachers, but over time you realise that the only things you don’t forget and remember for a long time are those for which you had really vulgar mnemonics :). I feel that mnemonics made by others are more effective than those you make for yourself though I don’t understand why. May be because the element of surprise is what helps us actually remember it.
The internet is the best place to find ready-made popular and time-tested medical mnemonics. Here I have mentioned some sources of medical mnemonics on the internet. I also plan to do posts in future in which I will mention my hand-picked mnemonics grouped by topic.
This might be the biggest database of medical mnemonics on the internet. You can search for any topic you want. You can also download the whole collection arranged according to subject. I highly recommend you download it and print a few pages of the subject you are studying. You’ll be surprised to find mnemonics for things you didn’t expect at all.
Download the PDF here (Right-Click and select “Save Link As”)
When you search a topic in Wikipedia you will usually find i mnemonic for it if it exists. Try searching “cranial nerves” on Wikipedia and you’ll understand what I mean 🙂
E-book: Mnemonics and Study Tips for Medical Students
This ebook also has good mnemonics. Click Here to download it.
Good old Google
If you can’t find a mnemonic on any of the above then you may try Google. You’ll find results from many forums.