After doing some work with a paramedic class and looking at the way they studied it made me think back to how I studied when I was taking my first paramedic class back in college.  When I got to college my study habits were poor to say the least.  I was one of those people who always got it or I did not.  I can count the number of tests that I studied for in four years of high school on one hand, because I would just absorb information.

I could have gotten better grades if I had applied myself more.  While I was a good test taker, I skipped a lot of homework assignments because I saw them as being busy work.  When it would come time to take a test my score would be solid.  When I would have to do a report I could research it and put something good down on paper.  Homework though, that was my downfall.
Once I got to college the game had changed all together.  I went from not having to study to having to learn how to study because it was something that I had never done all that much.   I had trouble confirming for myself that I knew something without some concrete evidence in front of me.  That is why products like Dan Limmer’s Paramedic Review app were so important to me when I got my National Registry Paramedic certification a few years ago.  I could take a test, get immediate feedback on it and then have a score in front of me that gave me an idea of how well I was grasping the information.
Once I got to my paramedic class I found myself having to study more and more, especially in the first semester.  While carrying a moderately high class load I had to deal with the Fick principle, acid/base balancing and pharmacology.  Oh yes.  Pharmacology.  My program brought in a doctor for a month who gave us his own four inch d-ring binder full of information.  We did not just have to learn each medication, its purpose and its dose but we had to also know contra indications, mechanism of action, what receptor sites it would hit, and any adverse reactions.  There was plenty more, but you get the idea.
Based on some advice from friends who had been through the program already I started making flash cards.  While that might seem somewhat primitive (granted, it was 1999. . . ) it worked really well for me.  On one side of the card I wrote the medication name.  On the other side I wrote everything that I ever needed or wanted to know about the medication, and did my best to make each card identical so I had consistency as I studied.  I’m sure this seems simple to some people but for me it was a revelation and it was the most effective way that I have traditionally studied throughout my educational history.
Having the flashcards gave me an effective way to study, and it also gave me a way to confirm what I am studying rather than just saying to myself, “do you understand?”  If I could recite what was on the back side of the card, I knew it.  If I could look at that back side and identify the medication I was good with it.
I shared this with a lot of the students I had been working with last month.  I know a few of them were already on top of this but I hope the rest of them took it to heart as well.  Flashcards can be a useful tool, especially when it comes to one of the things that we need to know cold on a second’s notice like pharmacology.