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Practical Nursing Questions on Anatomy & Physiology

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Anatomy is the scientific study of human body structure: cells, tissues, organs and organ systems. This includes knowing specific terms for organ identification, as well as the articulation of bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments. Physiology focuses on studying the human body’s functioning such as in metabolism, protein synthesis and cell division. There tends to be some overlap, because it is nearly impossible to discuss structure without function. While practical nurses must have a working knowledge about anatomy and physiology, it is essential for all types of nurses.

Why should practical nurses be knowledgeable about anatomy and physiology?

It is important for the practical nurse to be knowledgeable about all organs, how each develops, functions, and how each is situated within the human body. If the nurse has a thorough understanding of how the body works, she will be better prepared to give safe, quality patient care. The nurse is able to completely understand the specific ways illness affects patients and the rationale behind treatment modalities. Anatomy and physiology is also very useful in understanding diagnostic testing and the body’s metabolism of drugs. Nurses are aware of signs and symptoms of serious illness.

What are organ systems?

While the human body is considered a whole organism, it can be broken down into component parts and grouped together according to function. The smallest functional unit of the body is the cell, for example. Cells reproduce to form the different tissues of the body; tissues then become individual organs such as the heart, spleen or pancreas. Finally, certain organs work together as organ systems. According to Merck Manual, there are 11 organ systems: cardiovascular or circulatory, respiratory, male and female reproductive, digestive, endocrine, nervous, skeletal, muscular, excretory and lymphatic. Organs of the cardiovascular system includes the heart, blood, and all blood vessels. The lungs, nose, and trachea make up the respiratory system and the uterus, fallopian tubes, and mammary glands belong to the female reproductive system. None of the organ systems work independently, but together simultaneously to sustain human life.

What is the best way to study anatomy and physiology?

Anatomy and physiology courses can be complex, so scheduling study time with a few other fellow students can help tremendously. More material is retained, covered and understood when several brains are working on the same subject. By discussing, quizzing and testing one another, students cover more in a much shorter amount of time than when studying alone. Spending time studying diagrams and pictures of various body structures to learn terms is also helpful. It also helps with understanding how organs are situated and organized. When studying the diagrams it is important to pay particular attention to viewing structures from cross-sectional, posterior and lateral perspectives.


Aunice Reed is a medical science writer living in Los Angeles, Calif. With over 10 years previous nursing experience, Reed has been writing for over six years and has attended University of Northern Iowa, University of California, Los Angeles and Los Angeles Harbor College.