What Mnemonic is Stuck in YOUR Brain?

This topic came up at our house recently when my husband teased me about being directionally-challenged, and my youngest jumped in with a mnemonic he’d learned at some point in elementary school for directions. I had him repeat it, because it was rather clever, and I’d simply had to memorize them. Mnemonics are what put me in the top 1% of my high school’s graduating class, and there’s no possible way I’d have remembered the mind-numbing amount of information I had to know for my nursing degree and state boards without them. Nowadays I use them for names when I meet new people in groups, or, better yet, I just call everyone sweetheart, sweetie, chick or girlfriend (if they are female and approximately my age), or honey. This works nicely even with children, other relatives, and pets. If you’re a Southern Woman, that is. I’m not entirely sure you could get away with this in, say, Michigan. But it’s worth a shot. Anyway, I digress.

John’s directional mnemonic got me thinking about ones I remember from long ago. One that’s engraved on my brain (and probably the brain of every nurse and doctor) is the one for the cranial nerves: On Old Olympus’ Towering Tops A Finn And Greek Saw A Hawk. I can’t remember what any of it stands for now, but I know I’ll remember that sentence when I’m ninety-five and can’t remember my own name. Of course I’ve never actually used that except on written tests. If you need a patient’s cranial nerves evaluated you call in a neurologist, who knows what every O, T, and G stands for better than his or her own children’s names.

The other one I’m stuck with was much more helpful. I’ve worked with nothing but cardiac patients my entire career (except for a few terrifying pulls to other units that convinced me cardiology was the correct choice). When a patient has a cardiac catheterization, angioplasty, or stent placement there are two hollow tubes in their groin though which the cardiologist has done his/her work. Once any blood thinners given have worn off the tubes must be removed from the femoral vein and artery. When I first started working for a large group of local cardiologists, back in the early 90’s, we (the nurses) just flopped any unnecessary appendages out of the way, sterilized and numbed the area, and then pulled both sheaths at the same time, holding pressure with fingers, a bit of gauze, and a close eye on the phone and call button in case of the fairly common adverse reaction. But soon technology moved on, and cardiologists started using more blood thinners and a wider variety of devices to place in the coronary arteries of their patients to open them and keep them open. That’s when we had to stop using our hands and use a mesh belt with an inflatable balloon attached, so we could pull the venous sheath at a low pressure, then pump up to a high pressure to pull the arterial sheath. Do it in the wrong order and you’ll have blood on the ceiling, and let me tell you, the housekeeping department will not clean that. To make matters more complicated, cardiologists use either the right or the left groin depending on whether the doctor is right- or left-handed. Here’s where the mnemonic comes in: NAVY. Start at the outside of the patient’s leg: Nerve, Artery, Vein, Ying-Yang (that would be the unnecessary appendage you flopped out of the way earlier). Simple mnemonic, but it’s saved countless pints of blood, patient hysteria, and re-painting of ceilings 🙂

femoral artery sheath mnemonic

You’re already thinking about it – I know you are. What mnemonic will you never get out of your head?

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14 thoughts on “What Mnemonic is Stuck in YOUR Brain?”

  1. OK, just remembered two more important ones: for a sprain RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and for an icky tummy BRAT (banannas, rice, applesauce, toast)

    1. I remember that one now! I only took one music class (in middle school). That was all it took for me to realize I was tone-deaf and had NO natural rhythm. Now I am surrounded by musicians – it keeps me humble 😉

  2. The one I use for the planets is:

    My Very Energetic Mouse Jumps Silently Up Nearby People.

    And the one I use to make sure I don’t get East and West muddled up (it could happen!) is:

    Naughty Elephants Squirt Water

  3. A Rat In Tom’s House Might Eat Tom’s Ice Cream (spelling of arithmetic–I don’t really need this one, but it won’t go away!)

    and HOMES for the Great Lakes (Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior)

    (Finally catching up on some of my email)

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