Mnemonic devices are strategies that make complex information easier to recall. There are several types of mnemonic devices. One mnemonic device is the method of loci. The method of loci relies on spatial relationships between locations along a familiar route in which each location, or loci, is assigned a set of new information. Another mnemonic device is the use of acronyms. An acronym is a word or a group of words in which each letter represents another word or group of words. All of the words in an acronym typically relate to a similar subject. Another mnemonic device is chunking. Chunking is a way of breaking down information into smaller chunks of more easily managed information. These three mnemonic devices are shown to improve learning in continuing medical education (CME) nursing curricula. It is easy to apply these strategies to both in-person trainings of a CME program, or online CME trainings conducted through a learning management system.
3 Ways Mnemonic Devices Improve CME Student Learning
- Method of Loci (MOL)
MOL and didactic lectures are more successful in teaching the mechanism of action of insulin, insulin activities, and diabetes mellitus than didactic lectures and self-directed learning sessions. Qureshi, Rizvi, Syed, Shahid, and Manzoor (2014) found that when students attached different images of locations to different sets of information regarding these topics, they performed significantly better on assessments testing this new knowledge than students who did not utilize MOL tactics. MOL helped students retain typically complex information more easily, all while learning a new skill to organize information.
One widely used acronym in the field of emergency medicine is SAMPLE:
This acronym assists in recalling the procedure for patient history inquiry. The S stands for signs and symptoms, prompting nurses to ask about patients’ signs and symptoms. The A stands for allergies, prompting nurses to ask if patients have allergies. The M stands for medications, prompting nurses to ask if patients are actively taking any medications, and if so to list those medications. The P stands for pertinent past history, prompting nurses to ask about any history related to the current reason for the appointment. The L stands for last intake, prompting nurses to ask about patient consumption leading up to the patients’ current state of being. Finally, the E stands for events leading up to injury, prompting nurses to inquire about what transpired leading up to the injury or affliction.
Chunking has helpful applications in learning the differences between drug classes. Encourage nursing students specializing in pharmacology to make flashcards of different drug classes, and then outline differentiating characteristics of each drug on the bottom of each flashcard. By incorporating chunking strategies, students reported greater confidence in knowledge acquisition and achieved, on average, a 7.3% increase in pharmacology scores on a standardized exit exam (Alton, 2016).
Alton, S. (2016). Learning how to learn: Meta-learning strategies for the challenges of learning pharmacology. Nurse Education Today, 38, 2–4. doi:10.1016/j.nedt.2016.01.003
Qureshi, A., Rizvi, F., Syed, A., Shahid, A., & Manzoor, H. (2014). The method of loci as a mnemonic device to facilitate learning in endocrinology leads to improvement in student performance as measured by assessments. Advances in Physiology Education, 38140–144. doi:10.1152/advan.00092.2013