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Common Nursing Mnemonics

Oct 19, 2021

Nurses often find themselves working in emergency situations where as part of their nursing process they need to think on their feet, act fast, and make quick diagnoses. This is where a mnemonic device can help. This learning technique helps those in nursing school retain key points of information and access them in an instant, which comes in handy during critical medical events.

Both nursing students and current nurses should know the most common nursing mnemonics, no matter what kind of nurse they are. Although many students learn these mnemonics in nursing school while studying for their exams, nursing mnemonics are bound to stick with nurses throughout their entire careers, acting as a shorthand language for that can make it easier for them to recall the information while they are practicing nursing care. The technique improves their ability to assess and address a variety of medical situations. Check out some of the most common nursing mnemonics below! Use them in your exams, and throughout your career.


Hypokalemia is lower than normal potassium in the bloodstream, which can have an effect on nerve and muscle cells—particularly in the heart. Nurses use this mnemonic to help identify symptoms: lethargy, leg cramps, limp muscles, low, shallow respirations, lethal cardiac dysrhythmias, and lots of urine.


Although birth control pills are a common method of contraception, some women experience complications from taking the pill. This mnemonic outlines the issues nurses need to address to determine complications associated with birth control: abdominal pain, chest pain, headaches, eye problems, and severe leg pain.


Nurses who want to remind themselves of the symptoms associated with hypocalcemia need to look for CATS: convulsions, arrhythmias, tetany, spasms, and stridor.


This longer mnemonic is used to remember the symptoms of hyponatremia: stupor/coma, anorexia, lethargy, tendon reflexes decreased, limp muscles, orthostatic hypotension, seizures/headaches, and stomach cramping.


Severe preeclampsia can be especially damaging to pregnant women; if it’s not treated, it can turn into renal or liver failure, and lead to cardiovascular problems. That’s why nurses should be on the lookout for hemolysis, elevated liver enzymes, and low platelet count to help make their diagnosis.


When nurses need to remind themselves of the location of electrolytes inside the cells, they remember this mnemonic. It means “potassium inside the cell, sodium outside the cell.”


Using this mnemonic, nurses can help to diagnose hyperkalemia. The letters correspond to the symptoms or complications they need to look for: medications, acidosis, cellular destruction, hypoaldosteronism, intake, nephrons, and excretion.


There are a lot of F’s to look for when exploring whether or not a patient is facing cholelithiasis risk factors, which may lead to gallbladder stones—often caused by cholesterol. That’s why nurses need to determine if the patient is fat, forty, fertile, and female.


Bradycardia relates to an abnormally low heart rate—think less than 60 beats per minute. It can be life threatening, which is why nurses need to remember to look at the intake of isoproterenol, dopamine, epinephrine, and atropine sulfate.


People who have proclaimed themselves to be “fried” may understand the inspiration behind this mnemonic, crafted to help nurses diagnose hypernatremia: fever, restless, increased fluid retention and increased blood pressure, edema, and decreased urinary output/dry mouth.


It sounds gross, but this mnemonic that details cholinergic crisis signs and symptoms could help nurses to save lives in emergency situations where organs and glands are overstimulated. What are they looking for? Salvation, lacrimation, urination, defecation, gastric upset, and emesis.

White On Right, Smoke Over Fire

This mnemonic helps nurses figure out where to place an EKG lead. While there are many variations of this mnemonic, this one tends to be the most widely recognized and used for this situation.

A Nice, Delicious PIE

When doing a general nursing evaluation, nurses will remind themselves of this mnemonic to make sure they’re doing an assessment, offering a nursing diagnosis, then creating a plan, interventions, and evaluation.

These Drugs Can Interact - TDCI

Drug interaction can have a variety of effects on a patient, from drugs canceling each other out, to causing serious medical issues. This mnemonic highlights drugs that can interact: theophylline, dilantin, coumadin, and ilosone.


Sometimes, the epiglottitis can become inflamed and block airways thanks to a bacterial infection. It can lead to serious issues if a nurse doesn’t use this mnemonic to look at airway inflammation, increased pulse, restlessness, retractions, anxiety increased, inspiratory stridor, and drooling.


Emergency situations can be high stress, which is why this mnemonic can be a big help when they have to act fast in intense environments. It reminds nurses of the “drugs to lean on” in emergency care: lidocaine, epinephrine, atropine sulfate, and narcan.


Even basic health history assessments have an associated mnemonic, so nurses remember every step they need to follow to get a full picture of a client’s health. That’s why they look at symptoms, allergies, medications, past medical history, last oral intake, and events leading up to the illness/injury.


No, not the canned ham—this is a different kind of spam, detailing what nurses need to look for when investigating the causes of a heart murmur. Addressing the stenosis of valve, partial obstruction, aneurysms, mitral regurgitation and septal defect can help a nurse make the distinction between a harmless murmur, versus one that points to a bigger cardiac problem.


Nurses in personal care situations may call on this mnemonic to help them determine whether or not their patient is capable of caring for themselves. To determine their activity of daily living (or ADL), they look at bathing, ambulation, toileting, transfers, eating, and dressing.


This mnemonic outlines the treatment protocol for a heart attack, or myocardial infarction. It stands for morphine, oxygen, aspirin, and nitrates—and the quicker treatment is given, the less likely there is to be heart damage.

Both seasoned nurses who are looking to take their careers to the next level, or aspiring nurses who want to get started in nursing school, can benefit from WGU’s BSN and MSN programs. Each program is geared to set students up for success and progress their careers, ensuring they’ll get the most out of nursing school and professional experiences. It’s rewarding, challenging, and an optimal space to grow and learn, from the ins and outs of medical procedures to mnemonics.

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