There really isn't an "easy" way to learn anatomy and physiology. This is a subject that includes huge amounts of information and requires mastering details that cover much more depth than learning to label structures. However, there are some suggestions and techniques that can make it "easier" to learn anatomy and physiology.
Read the textbook. That may sound elementary and obvious, but many students are tempted to rely on supplemental overviews. Overviews are not a good enough substitute for anatomy and physiology. The textbook has the depth of information you will need along with charts, diagrams and photographs to help clarify the text. Take it one step at a time. Don't jump around randomly through the book and don't try to read too much at once. Take the time to comprehend each step. This is a key to mastering anatomy and physiology because the information builds from one step to the next. If you haven't mastered the first lesson you will be lost when you discover it plays an important role in lesson four or 20.
The new vocabulary you'll find in anatomy and physiology is extensive. There aren't any shortcuts here, it must be memorized. But even though there is a lot to be memorized, if you rely on nothing but straight memorization you will struggle when it comes to anatomy and physiology.
As you begin to read remember that the human body is specifically organized. There are relationships and subsequent interactions between the different levels and systems. At the smallest level this means you'll need to understand chemical reactions and how cells work because they are the groundwork and they affect every process. As you learn more about tissues, organs and systems, you will discover that what happens in one organ or tissue has implications throughout the body. From the very start, make it a point to see the connections and understand the concept of how it all works together. The more you follow this focus, the easier it will be to make sense of anatomy and physiology as the course progresses.
Fall back on some of the standard study tools that you were probably advised to use in earlier years. Flashcards are a good way to learn words and concepts. Create a card every time you encounter a new word, put the word on one side and its definition on the other, carry the cards with you and review them whenever can. When reading the textbook, read it once to grasp the basics while underlining the important points. Then go back and read it a second time for details, taking notes and defining connections.
Additional visual tools, especially 3-D or animated websites, are a good way to reinforce information from your textbook. Look for supplemental books available from the publisher of your textbook because most of them offer sample tests or supplemental work books. For example, Wiley offers a Cliffs Study Solver for Anatomy and Physiology, which is 20 percent review and 80 percent practice problems. They also publish the Anatomy and Physiology Workbook for Dummies.
Another excellent way to reinforce information is to purchase one of the many anatomy and physiology coloring books that are available. Whether you actually color in them or not, they're a great resource with drawings that label every detail related to anatomy and physiology.
Do not ever count on cramming. There is too much information in anatomy and physiology to wait until the last minute and hope to absorb everything. Also, develop your own shorthand method for taking notes and drawing your own diagrams to represent processes and relationships. These can be simple but obvious, like arrows that point up to mean increase, down for decrease and to the right to indicate a result or effect. It will also help if you quickly learn to use standard abbreviations such as the letter O for oxygen.
Sandi Busch received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology, then pursued training in nursing and nutrition. She taught families to plan and prepare special diets, worked as a therapeutic support specialist, and now writes about her favorite topics – nutrition, food, families and parenting – for hospitals and trade magazines.