Remember pharmacy school? When you could spend an entire leisurely afternoon studying for finals? You could loll around campus under the bright sun and shady groves memorizing medications at your own pace?
Now your days brim over with tasks, demands and responsibilities. Sometimes you’re lucky to fit in a lunch.
And you realize that school never ends. Every year new drugs emerge with side effects, indications and contraindications to memorize.
And you wonder how, on top of all your obligations, you can keep up.
Don’t worry. These tips can help keep memorization from crowding your schedule, adding stress and being a burden.
Try these memorization tricks and continue to be your patients reliable resource for all their medication needs.
1. Memorize no more than one per day
It’s tempting to try to memorize everything in one swoop. For one, you get to procrastinate. And two, you get to conquer them all at once and get a long break until the next batch.
But your brain doesn’t like that.
When you cram, it takes far more time to memorize the medications and even more time to finally master them.
And they’ll slip from your mind more easily, forcing you memorize them again.
Instead, focus on one item in your memorization list per day. You’ll memorize faster and retain the information longer.
And, it will require only a small portion of your day, making it less burdensome. You can memorize in the morning before you open, during lunch, and even while you’re completing tasks that require little concentration.
By the end of the day, it’ll seem as if the memorization required hardly any work at all.
2. Repeat what you memorized
Once you memorize a drug, you’re not finished with it. If you move on to memorize another drug immediately after, you’ll find you’ve forgotten the first one long before you get to the fifteenth drug on your list.
Each time you memorize a new drug, repeat all of the drugs you’ve learned up until that point. By the end, you should be able to list every drug from the first to the last.
That seems like a lot of work, but it only adds a minute to each memorization session because you’ll be able to breeze through the list you already know by heart.
And it saves you from having to memorize them all over again.
3. Memorize new drugs in order of class
Order your memorization by the drugs’ classes.
Many classes contain common general side effects and indications that overlap. If you memorize drugs in order of class, you’ll easily remember the general side effects.
And during memorization, you won’t have to relearn the general effects of the subsequent drugs, only the exceptions. Which makes the list shorter and easier to learn.
4. Memorize new drugs with acronyms
You learned the acronym trick in school. But it’s easy to think you don’t need it anymore since you don’t memorize compendiums of information and take intimidating tests.
No matter how little you have to memorize, an acronym is the best bet for long-term retention.
Bonus tip: Use an acronym that spells a word associated with the drug. The more you strengthen associations, the easier the recall.
5. Memorize new drugs with picture association
Imagination is memorization’s best friend.
Visualization and picture association are proven to increase memory retention, even if it sometimes seems silly.
For example, studies found that after people viewed thousands of images for a few seconds each on average, they could correctly distinguish more than 80 percent of them from images they hadn’t seen.
Associate an image with each drug to help you remember details about the drug. For example, for the drug vasopressin, imagine a heart with a letter E written inside. It will remind you that it’s for cardiac arrest and can replace doses of epinephrine.
You’ll be surprised how the image will appear in your mind when you think about the drug, and how well you’ll remember.
6. Memorize new drugs with a memory palace (advanced technique)
If you want to take visualization to the next level, try a classic memory technique used by the 2006 national memory champion, called the memory palace.
A memory palace associates items in the memorization list with scenes or objects at familiar places, like walking routes or your house. The more distinctive the images, the better the recall.
That’s good and bad news for pharmacology, which can produce some bizarre but memorable imagery with this technique.
For example, visualize your side effects list along a walk through your house. The entryway of your house is blurred from your vision; your dining table displays plates of stomach ulcers (yikes); your favorite kitchen cup is full of sweat; your cute cat is bloated.
If you burn the images and locations into your mind (adding senses to your imagined scenes helps,) you’ll boost your memory big time.
The memory palace technique takes the most time and concentration, but it reaps the best results.
You may no longer get to spend afternoons leisurely memorizing drugs, but you never stop being a student. Ease your burden as a busy pharmacy professional with any of these easy memorization techniques.
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