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Student Designed Case Studies for Anatomy

how to write a case study for anatomy and physiology

Instead of a final exam, give your students a final project for their anatomy class – Design Your Own Case Study

Students in my anatomy class complete many case studies throughout the year focused on body system units. Case studies are a way to add a personal story to (sometimes) technical information about physiology. For my high school students, I try to find cases that are about younger people or even children, cases like “ A Tiny Heart ,” which tells the story of a baby born with a heart defect. Students seem to be more engaged when the cases about about people closer to their age or very young.

As a final project, the honors anatomy students make their own case study. They get to choose their topic, though I recommend they choose something they have a personal stake in. For example, one student chose to do her case on Lupus, because her mother has that condition.

The instructions outline how to write the case based on a simple flow chart.

Start with an introduction of a person by telling a story or narrating an event. Next, describe the tests needed to make a diagnosis. Tests can include X-rays, blood tests, urine tests, or other physical exams.

Students should include specific details here and images if appropriate. Following the diagnosis section, they should focus on the specific anatomy and physiology of the disease. Because homeostasis is a major theme of the class, students should focus on how the disorder causes an imbalance in the system

The last section will include how the disorder can be treated. In some cases, there will not be a cure, but the symptoms can be managed. Each section should contain 2-3 questions, similar to how cases we’ve done in class are organized.

While it may be better to assign this as a group project, during the 2021 pandemic, this was an individual assignment, due to the difficulties with working together. I think it would work very well as a project that 2-3 individuals could work on together.

Shannan Muskopf

how to write a case study for anatomy and physiology

Using Case Studies for Anatomy and Physiology

Integrating case studies for anatomy and physiology students can be a great way to encourage solving problems while giving them a taste of the medical profession. The analysis required to make a diagnosis is a real-world application of the Claim- Evidence- Reasoning format designated in the Next Generation Science Standards*. Certainly wet labs and experiments can also require the same skills in solving problems and writing conclusions, but case studies are an easy extension of these skills. And certainly, there is no course in which case studies are easier to integrate than Anatomy and Physiology.

Teaching Anatomy and Physiology with Medical Case Studies

Human Anatomy and Physiology is usually taught by dividing body systems and teaching one system at a time, which is the way I teach my Anatomy & Physiology course . It makes for an organized approach that is easier for teachers to plan and students to study. It diminishes, however, the interconnection between the body systems and can prevent students from seeing the human body as a whole.

Case studes are a great way to use problem-solving strategies while bringing attention to multiple body systems at one time.

Case studies are a great way to use problem-solving strategies while bringing attention to multiple body systems at one time. For example, my case study about hypercalcemia discusses hormones from the endocrine system and how they relate to the circulatory and skeletal systems.

I started incorporating case studies into my A&P course this year and students were immediately receptive. Rather than using obscure medical conditions and disorders, I tried to use ones that my students may encounter throughout their lives. In fact, one of my students learned about Bell’s Palsy just a few months before his aunt was diagnosed with it.

how to write a case study for anatomy and physiology

As my A&P course is an introduction for high school students and most of them are not necessarily planning to be medical professionals, I kept the case studies relatively simple and assigned them to my Honors students as extended homework assignments. I created guided reading and research options for each case study. At the beginning of the year, students were simply asked to read the case study assignment and answer questions about the particular diagnosis. This was the first time these students had ever seen an assignment about medical conditions and I felt it was necessary to lead them with baby steps. After 2 or 3 case studies of this type, I switched to the research-based case studies. In this type, students are given the symptoms and a diagnosis, then asked to research how the condition causes those symptoms.

In future years, however, I’d love to be able to offer a more interactive approach by providing my class with a few symptoms, allowing them to decide which diagnostic tests to use, and then reporting imaginary results to lead them toward an accurate diagnosis. I did provide my students with a list of common diagnostic tests to help them understand the terminology as they came across it.

Interactive case studies may provide a more collaborative approach to learning and encourage students to evaluate the best course of action based on a set of results. This technique is recommended in nursing education programs to “ bridge the gap between theory and practice .”

If you’ve been considering using case studies in your classroom, please check out the bundle of 12 that I have created. You can also download my Common Diagnostic Tests list for FREE !

**Please note: NGSS is a registered trademark of WestEd.  Neither WestEd nor the lead states and partners that developed the Next Generation Science Standards were involved in the production of these lessons, and do not endorse it. 

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Using Case Studies for Anatomy and Physiology

Teaching Anatomy and Physiology (A&P) is both thrilling and daunting. It’s fascinating to explore the human body’s intricacies, but making these complex topics accessible and engaging for students can be a real challenge. One of the best ways to bridge this gap is through the use of case studies for anatomy and physiology.

Case studies transform dry facts into real-life stories that captivate students’ imaginations and deepen their understanding. Let’s dive into how you can use case studies to make your A&P classes more engaging, balanced, and inclusive for all students.

Looking for more A&P resources? Check out this post with links to resources and more. A&P scope and Sequence.

how to write a case study for anatomy and physiology

Engaging Students with Case Studies

1. Storytelling Approach: Everyone loves a good story, and case studies can be just that. When students see the human side of the material, they’re more likely to connect with it and remember it. Start with an intriguing story about a patient with unique symptoms or a puzzling medical history. Describe their symptoms, history, and lifestyle. This makes it more relatable and memorable.

2. Interactive Elements: Turn your case studies into interactive adventures. Incorporate interactive components like group discussions, role-playing, or simulations. Have students work in groups to diagnose a patient, devise treatment plans, or role-play different medical scenarios.

These activities not only make learning more enjoyable but also help students develop teamwork and problem-solving skills.

3. Multimedia Integration: Bring your case studies to life with videos, animations, and virtual simulations. Visual aids can make complicated concepts easier to grasp and show students how the material they’re learning applies to real-world situations. You can even ask students to create visual aids.

how to write a case study for anatomy and physiology

Balancing Challenge and Interest

1. Scaffolding the Content: Don’t throw your students into the deep end right away. Start with simple case studies for anatomy and physiology and gradually introduce more complex ones as their knowledge grows. This gradually build up helps students build confidence and prevent them from feeling overwhelmed. Everyone enjoys seeing their own skills improve.

2. Varied Difficulty Levels: Offer case studies at different difficulty levels to cater to your students’ diverse learning needs. Provide more guidance for those who need it and more open-ended challenges for those ready to dive deeper. You might use sentence stems, leveled texts, or more access to you as options to help some students.

3. Incorporating Current Events: Link your case studies to current events or recent medical advances. This not only makes the content more interesting but also shows students the real-world importance of what they’re learning. Making the dreaded question of when will I ever need to know this easy to answer.

Differentiating for the High School Classroom

1. Choose Adaptable Case Studies: Modify case studies to match the high school curriculum and students’ cognitive levels. Simplify complex medical terminology and focus on key concepts that align with what they already know. Give the new information a place to hang by activating prior knowledge and life experience.

2. Choice and Autonomy: Allow students to choose from a selection of case studies based on their interests. This empowers them to take ownership of their learning and explore topics they are genuinely curious about.

3. Personalized Support: Provide additional resources and support for students who may struggle with the material. This could include one-on-one tutoring sessions, additional readings, or tailored assignments that reinforce the core concepts.

Teaching A&P to Non-College Bound or Non-Honors Students

1. Practical Applications: Focus on the practical applications of A&P that are relevant to everyday life. Show them how understanding their bodies can help them make better health decisions, understand medical information, and care for themselves and others.

2. Hands-On Learning: Incorporate hands-on activities such as lab experiments, dissections, or using models. These tactile experiences can make the material more engaging and easier to grasp. Consider bringing in people to talk about being an EMT, paramedic, volunteer firefighter, or even just having first aid and CPR certification.

3. Simplified Case Studies: Use straightforward case studies that focus on common conditions or scenarios students might encounter in real life. This approach ensures the material is accessible while still teaching critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

4. Emphasizing Skills Over Memorization: Shift the focus from rote memorization to developing skills such as critical thinking, data analysis, and application of knowledge. Case studies are a great way to teach these skills in a fun and engaging way.

Using Case Studies in Anatomy and Physiology is Essential

Using case studies in your A&P classes can transform the learning experience, making it more engaging and meaningful for all your students. By balancing challenge and interest, differentiating instruction, and focusing on practical applications, you can help every student gain a solid understanding of Anatomy and Physiology, regardless of their future plans.

If you’re looking for more resources to support your teaching, check out our A&P Resource Hub. It’s packed with editable case studies, worksheets, presentations, and more, all designed to help you create an engaging and supportive learning environment. Let’s reduce stress, spend less, and teach more effectively together!

how to write a case study for anatomy and physiology

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Lachman's Case Studies in Anatomy

Lachman's Case Studies in Anatomy

Lachman's Case Studies in Anatomy

Professor of Neuroscience and Cell Biology; Associate Dean for Student Affairs

Associate Professor, Department of General Surgery

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This resource is a thoroughly revised edition of a popular collection of 50 anatomical cases. Each chapter starts with a clinical case presentation, followed by diagnosis and therapy and then an extensive discussion of the anatomy that is relevant to the case. The patient presentations provide the history and physical examination findings in a format consistent with that which the student will utilize in clinical training. Diagnostic and therapeutic procedures that are discussed have been brought up-to-date and are consistent with current medical practice.

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Directed case study method for teaching human anatomy and physiology

Affiliation.

  • 1 Department of Biology, Niagara University, New York 14109, USA.
  • PMID: 8712252
  • DOI: 10.1152/advances.1996.270.6.S19

A mastery of human anatomy and physiology requires a familiarity with a vast number of details about the human body. A directed method of case analysis is described that helps students deepen and solidify their understanding of anatomical and physiological facts, concepts, and principles. The successful case had four distinctive features as follows: clear learning objectives, a concise and informative scenario, straightforward and didactic questions, and an emphasis on information readily available to the student. A directed case study is presented, and its salient features are described. A procedure for integrating case analyses into an undergraduate anatomy and physiology course is outlined. Student response to this type of case study suggests that this method improves the ease of learning, the depth of learning, and an appreciation of the relevance of and a curiosity about anatomy and physiology. The addition of case analyses to a two-semester integrated course in anatomy and physiology was also associated with an improvement in exam performance. The regular use of directed case analysis is a valuable addition to the traditional methods of lecture, textbook reading, and laboratory for the teaching of human anatomy and physiology.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Anatomy / education*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate*
  • Evaluation Studies as Topic
  • Physiology / education*

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Biology LibreTexts

4.1: Case Study- Your Support System

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  • Page ID 103185

  • Suzanne Wakim & Mandeep Grewal
  • Butte College

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Case Study: A Pain in the Foot

Amari loves wearing high heels when they go out at night, like the stiletto heels shown in Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\) . Amari uses gender-neutral pronouns, such as they, them, and their. They know high heels are not the most practical shoes, but they like how they look. Lately, Amari has been experiencing pain in the balls of their feet—the area just behind the toes. Even when they trade heels for comfortable sneakers, it still hurts when they stand or walk.

high heels

What could be going on? Amari searches online to try to find some answers. They find a reputable source for foot pain information—a website from a professional organization of physicians that peer reviews the content by experts in the field. There, Amari reads about a condition called metatarsalgia, which produces pain in the ball of the foot that sounds very similar to what they are experiencing.

Amari learns that a common cause of metatarsalgia is the wearing of high heels because they push the foot into an abnormal position. This results in excessive pressure being placed onto the ball of the foot. Looking at the photograph above, you can imagine how much of the body weight is focused on the ball of the foot because of the shape of the high heels. If they were not wearing high heels, the weight would be more evenly distributed across the foot.

As they read more about the hazards of high heels, Amari learns that heels can also cause foot deformities such as hammertoes and bunions, small cracks in the bone called stress fractures, and may even contribute to the development of osteoarthritis of the knees at an early age.

These conditions caused by high heels are all problems of the skeletal system, which includes bones and connective tissues that hold bones together and cushion them at joints such as the knee. The skeletal system supports the body’s weight and protects internal organs, but as you will learn as you read this chapter, it also carries out a variety of other important physiological functions.

At the end of the chapter, you will find out why high heels can cause these skeletal system problems and the steps Amari takes to recover from their foot pain and prevent long-term injury.

Chapter Overview: Skeletal System

In this chapter, you will learn about the structure, functions, growth, repair, and disorders of the skeletal system. Specifically, you will learn about:

  • The components of the skeletal system, which include bones, ligaments, and cartilage.
  • The functions of the skeletal system, which include supporting and giving shape to the body, protecting internal organs, facilitating movement, producing blood cells, helping maintain homeostasis, and producing endocrine hormones.
  • The organization and functions of the two main divisions of the skeletal system: the axial skeletal system, which includes the skull, spine, and rib cage; and the appendicular skeletal system, which includes the limbs and girdles that attach the limbs to the axial skeleton.
  • The tissues and cells that make up bones and their specific functions, including making new bone, breaking down bone, producing blood cells, and regulating mineral homeostasis.
  • The different types of bones in the skeletal system, based on shape and location.
  • How bones grow, remodel, and repair themselves.
  • The different types of joints between bones, where they are located, and the ways in which they allow different types of movement depending on their structure.
  • The causes, risk factors, and treatments for the two most common disorders of the skeletal system: osteoporosis and osteoarthritis.

As you read this chapter, think about the following questions:

  • Amari suspects they have a condition called metatarsalgia. This term is related to the term “metatarsals.” What are metatarsals, where are they located, and how do you think they are related to metatarsalgia?
  • High heels can cause stress fractures, which are small cracks in the bone that usually appear after repeated mechanical stress, instead of after a significant acute injury. What other condition described in this chapter involves a similar process?
  • What are bunions and osteoarthritis of the knee? Why do you think they can be caused by wearing high heels?

Attributions

  • High heels by Agnali via Pixabay license
  • Text adapted from Human Biology by CK-12 licensed CC BY-NC 3.0

Introduction

Chapter objectives.

After studying this chapter, you will be able to:

  • Distinguish between anatomy and physiology, and identify several branches of each
  • Describe the structure of the body, from simplest to most complex, in terms of the six levels of organization
  • Identify the functional characteristics of human life
  • Identify the four requirements for human survival
  • Define homeostasis and explain its importance to normal human functioning
  • Use appropriate anatomical terminology to identify key body structures, body regions, and directions in the body
  • Compare and contrast at least four medical imaging techniques in terms of their function and use in medicine

Though you may approach a course in anatomy and physiology strictly as a requirement for your field of study, the knowledge you gain in this course will serve you well in many aspects of your life. An understanding of anatomy and physiology is not only fundamental to any career in the health professions, but it can also benefit your own health. Familiarity with the human body can help you make healthful choices and prompt you to take appropriate action when signs of illness arise. Your knowledge in this field will help you understand news about nutrition, medications, medical devices, and procedures and help you understand genetic or infectious diseases. At some point, everyone will have a problem with some aspect of their body and your knowledge can help you to be a better parent, spouse, partner, friend, colleague, or caregiver.

This chapter begins with an overview of anatomy and physiology and a preview of the body regions and functions. It then covers the characteristics of life and how the body works to maintain stable conditions. It introduces a set of standard terms for body structures and for planes and positions in the body that will serve as a foundation for more comprehensive information covered later in the text. It ends with examples of medical imaging used to see inside the living body.

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Access for free at https://openstax.org/books/anatomy-and-physiology-2e/pages/1-introduction
  • Authors: J. Gordon Betts, Kelly A. Young, James A. Wise, Eddie Johnson, Brandon Poe, Dean H. Kruse, Oksana Korol, Jody E. Johnson, Mark Womble, Peter DeSaix
  • Publisher/website: OpenStax
  • Book title: Anatomy and Physiology 2e
  • Publication date: Apr 20, 2022
  • Location: Houston, Texas
  • Book URL: https://openstax.org/books/anatomy-and-physiology-2e/pages/1-introduction
  • Section URL: https://openstax.org/books/anatomy-and-physiology-2e/pages/1-introduction

© Dec 19, 2023 OpenStax. Textbook content produced by OpenStax is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License . The OpenStax name, OpenStax logo, OpenStax book covers, OpenStax CNX name, and OpenStax CNX logo are not subject to the Creative Commons license and may not be reproduced without the prior and express written consent of Rice University.

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Case Studies: Anatomy & Physiology

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Medicine LibreTexts

1.2: Overview of Anatomy and Physiology

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  • Whitney Menefee, Julie Jenks, Chiara Mazzasette, & Kim-Leiloni Nguyen
  • Reedley College, Butte College, Pasadena City College, & Mt. San Antonio College via ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative

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By the end of the section, you will be able to:

  • Compare and contrast anatomy and physiology, including their specializations and methods of study
  • Discuss the fundamental relationship between anatomy and physiology

Human anatomy is the scientific study of the body’s structures. Some of these structures are very small and can only be observed and analyzed with the assistance of a microscope. Other larger structures can readily be seen, manipulated, measured, and weighed. The word “anatomy” comes from a Greek root that means “to cut apart.” Human anatomy was first studied by observing the exterior of the body and observing the wounds of soldiers and other injuries. Later, physicians were allowed to dissect bodies of the dead to augment their knowledge. When a body is dissected, its structures are cut apart in order to observe their physical attributes and their relationships to one another. Dissection is still used in medical schools, anatomy courses, and in pathology labs. In order to observe structures in living people, however, a number of imaging techniques have been developed. These techniques allow clinicians to visualize structures inside the living body such as a cancerous tumor or a fractured bone.

Like most scientific disciplines, anatomy has areas of specialization. Gross anatomy is the study of the larger structures of the body, those visible without the aid of magnification (Figure \(\PageIndex{1.a}\)). Macro- means “large,” thus, gross anatomy is also referred to as macroscopic anatomy. In contrast, micro- means “small,” and microscopic anatomy is the study of structures that can be observed only with the use of a microscope or other magnification devices (Figure \(\PageIndex{1.b}\)). Microscopic anatomy includes cytology, the study of cells and histology, the study of tissues. As the technology of microscopes has advanced, anatomists have been able to observe smaller and smaller structures of the body, from slices of large structures like the heart, to the three-dimensional structures of large molecules in the body.

(a) Human Brain (b) Neural tissue

Anatomists take two general approaches to the study of the body’s structures: regional and systemic. Regional anatomy is the study of the interrelationships of all of the structures in a specific body region, such as the abdomen. Studying regional anatomy helps us appreciate the interrelationships of body structures, such as how muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and other structures work together to serve a particular body region. In contrast, systemic anatomy is the study of the structures that make up a discrete body system—that is, a group of structures that work together to perform a unique body function. For example, a systemic anatomical study of the muscular system would consider all of the skeletal muscles of the body.

Whereas anatomy is about structure, physiology is about function. Human physiology is the scientific study of the chemistry and physics of the structures of the body and the ways in which they work together to support the functions of life. Much of the study of physiology centers on the body’s tendency toward homeostasis. Homeostasis is the state of steady internal conditions maintained by living things. The study of physiology certainly includes observation, both with the naked eye and with microscopes, as well as manipulations and measurements. However, current advances in physiology usually depend on carefully designed laboratory experiments that reveal the functions of the many structures and chemical compounds that make up the human body.

Like anatomists, physiologists typically specialize in a particular branch of physiology. For example, neurophysiology is the study of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves and how these work together to perform functions as complex and diverse as vision, movement, and thinking. Physiologists may work from the organ level (exploring, for example, what different parts of the brain do) to the molecular level (such as exploring how an electrochemical signal travels along nerves).

Form is closely related to function in all living things. For example, the thin flap of your eyelid can snap down to clear away dust particles and almost instantaneously slide back up to allow you to see again. At the microscopic level, the arrangement and function of the nerves and muscles that serve the eyelid allow for its quick action and retreat. At a smaller level of analysis, the function of these nerves and muscles likewise relies on the interactions of specific molecules and ions. Even the three-dimensional structure of certain molecules is essential to their function.

While extensive study of both anatomy and physiology is required to fully understand the overall workings of the human body, this textbook will focus mainly on anatomy. By first studying anatomy, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the structural characteristics of the human body, which will build a solid foundation for your proceeding studies of human physiology.

Concept Review

Human anatomy is the scientific study of the body’s structures. In the past, anatomy has primarily been studied via observing injuries, and later by the dissection of anatomical structures of cadavers, but in the past century, computer-assisted imaging techniques have allowed clinicians to look inside the living body. Human physiology is the scientific study of the chemistry and physics of the structures of the body. Physiology explains how the structures of the body work together to maintain life.

Review Questions

Q. Which of the following specialties might focus on studying all of the structures of the ankle and foot?

A. microscopic anatomy

B. muscle anatomy

C. regional anatomy

D. systemic anatomy

Q. A scientist wants to study how the body uses foods and fluids during a marathon run. This scientist is most likely a(n) ________.

A. exercise physiologist

B. microscopic anatomist

C. regional physiologist

D. systemic anatomist

Critical Thinking Questions

Q. Name at least three reasons to study anatomy and physiology.

A. An understanding of anatomy and physiology is essential for any career in the health professions. It can also help you make choices that promote your health, respond appropriately to signs of illness, make sense of health-related news, and help you in your roles as a parent, spouse, partner, friend, colleague, and caregiver.

Q. For whom would an appreciation of the structural characteristics of the human heart come more easily: an alien who lands on Earth, abducts a human, and dissects his heart, or an anatomy and physiology student performing a dissection of the heart on her very first day of class? Why?

A. A student would more readily appreciate the structures revealed in the dissection. Even though the student has not yet studied the workings of the heart and blood vessels in her class, she has experienced her heart beating every moment of her life, has probably felt her pulse, and likely has at least a basic understanding of the role of the heart in pumping blood throughout her body. This understanding of the heart’s function (physiology) would support her study of the heart’s form (anatomy).

science that studies the form and composition of the body's structures

study of the larger structures of the body, typically with the unaided eye; also referred to as macroscopic anatomy

steady state of body systems that living organisms maintain

study of very small structures of the body using magnification

science that studies the chemistry, biochemistry, and physics of the body's functions

study of the structures that contribute to specific body regions

study of the structures that contribute to specific body systems

Contributors and Attributions

OpenStax Anatomy & Physiology (CC BY 4.0). Access for free at  https://openstax.org/books/anatomy-and-physiology

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Integration of anatomy and physiology into nursing practice as perceived by undergraduate students and registered nurses: a scoping review

Miwa horiuchi-hirose.

1 Department of Health and Nutrition, Tokiwa University, Mito, 310-8585 Ibaraki Japan

Tomoko Fukuoka

2 Former Department of Nursing, Ibaraki Christian University, Hitachi, 319-1295 Ibaraki Japan

3 Graduate School of Medicine, Ehime University, Shitsukawa, Toon, 791-0295 Ehime Japan

Associated Data

All data generated or analyzed during this study are included in this published article.

The current study aimed to determine perceptions of registered and student nurses regarding the integration of anatomy and physiology into nursing practice.

This scoping review was conducted following the checklist provided in the Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analysis extension for scoping reviews. Articles published in PubMed, ERIC, and CINAL from January 1, 2002 to September 30, 2022 were included.

A literature review of 20 articles that matched the indicative criteria revealed that both undergraduate student and registered nurses recognized knowledge of anatomy and physiology as important to nursing practice. Student nurses recognized that such knowledge is related to understanding patient pathophysiology, patient observation, treatment selection, and patient safety and forms the basis for nursing practice. Registered nurses who were confident in their knowledge of anatomy and physiology also reported that they were able to explain the rationale for their nursing practice. They also reported that this knowledge is necessary for communication with multiple professions, which promotes patient/family trust in nurses and is the basis for building trusting relationships with patients and their families.

Conclusions

Although undergraduate student and registered nurses recognized the importance of learning anatomy and physiology, the integration of anatomy and physiology into nursing practice was not the same for all student and registered nurses. This suggests the need to investigate the overall perceptions of nurses regarding the integration of anatomy and physiology into nursing practice and for faculty to discuss how to facilitate critical thinking among students.

Introduction

The exponential growth of information in health care knowledge and the complexity of medical sciences have required clinical nurses to be not only skillful but also knowledgeable on the scientific basis of diseases and treatment [ 1 ]. Knowledge regarding anatomy and physiology is essential for understanding human beings and is of great importance in nursing practice, especially in clinical decision making [ 2 ]. A qualitative research study by Van Wissen et al. [ 3 ], which sought to determine the impact of studying anatomy and physiology at a postgraduate level by disseminating pre- and post-course semi-structured questionnaire for an anatomy and physiology course as part of a Master’s Degree Program in Nursing, revealed improvement in confidence, particularly in communication, linking nursing theoretical knowledge to practice, and clinical nursing knowledge. However, with only a few published studies have been available regarding this field of research in undergraduate student nurses [ 4 ]. The overall view regarding how knowledge of anatomy and physiology relates to nursing practice remains unclear. This leads us to believe that faculty members teaching anatomy and physiology may not have a clearly defined perspective on student achievement goals for their anatomy and physiology courses. Student nurses seem to exhibit better academic performance level when they are well prepared and can understand the relevance of anatomy and physiology in nursing practice [ 4 ]. However, student nurses have perceived anatomy and physiology courses to be much more difficult than other subjects [ 5 ].

Studies have shown the effectiveness of blended learning, flipped learning, and other teaching methods in anatomy and physiology education. Blended learning has been reported to improve nursing students’ performance in anatomy and physiology, self-reported learning outcomes, and high levels of satisfaction [ 6 ]. The benefits of blended learning include flexible study time and improved independent study skills [ 7 ]. A study on flipped learning showed that the results for the flipped classroom group exceeded those for the traditional lecture group, with 70% of the student nurses reporting satisfaction with the flipped classroom method, indicating that it enhanced their learning and increased their interest in the course [ 8 ]. However, the primary focus of these teaching methods is not so much on promoting thinking that relates anatomy and physiology knowledge to nursing practice, but rather on how to consolidate anatomy and physiology knowledge.

With the current approach toward anatomy and physiology education, there is a need to examine educational methods that integrate anatomy and physiology knowledge into nursing practice and evaluate the effectiveness of such methods. As such, it is necessary to (1) investigate how students and nurses perceive anatomy and physiology learning and the integration of anatomy and physiology into nursing practice and (2) define the achievement goals of anatomy and physiology education required by students enrolled in a bachelor’s program.

The nursing education system in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, among other countries, have included anatomy and physiology under bioscience, an umbrella term that includes anatomy, genetics, microbiology, physiology, pharmacology, and pathophysiology [ 9 ]. However, given that other countries use the term anatomy and physiology, this term was used in the current study.

Scoping review objective

This scoping review aimed to summarize the perceptions of undergraduate student and registered nurses on anatomy and physiology learning and the integration of anatomy and physiology learning and nursing practice.

Scoping review question

What are the perceptions of student and registered nurses on learning anatomy and physiology? What are the perceptions of undergraduate student and registered nurses on the integration of anatomy and physiology learning and nursing practice in undergraduate nursing education?

Protocol and registration

The review protocol for this study was not published. This scoping review was conducted following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analysis extension for scoping reviews PRISMA-ScR Checklist [ 10 ] and follows the five-strategy review process as identified [ 11 ] and later refined by Lavec [ 12 ] and Peters [ 13 ].

Eligibility criteria

Titles/abstracts and full texts were screened to optimize literature coverage using the eligibility criteria shown in Table  1 .

Inclusion and exclusion criteria

Reviews, brief reports, conference notes/abstracts, and comment articles were excluded. Studies that focused on the perceptions of nurses and student nurses regarding anatomy and physiology learning and those on the perceptions of nurses and student nurses about integrating anatomy and physiology learning into nursing practice were considered eligible. Papers that did not fit these criteria were excluded.

Information sources

An electronic search of PubMed, ERIC, and CINAL was conducted in October 2022.

The search terms used were “nurse,” “nursing,” “anatomy,” “physiology,” “bioscience,” and “student.” Using Boolean combinations of the primitives, our final string was (nurse or nursing) AND (anatomy or physiology or bioscience) AND student.

Because nursing education curricula have changed with changing social conditions, in order to analyze the most recent research findings, the period of publication was limited to the last 10 years, and articles were limited to those published between January 1, 2002 and September 31, 2022. Although it is strongly recommended that scoping reviews should not be limited by language selection criteria [ 11 ], they were included in the exclusion criteria for this study due to the extreme difficulty of translating and understanding non-English speaking nurse education curricula. The seven excluded articles were in Chinese, Portuguese, and Israeli.

Data charting process and items

Microsoft Excel spreadsheets were used by the lead author to chart the characteristics of all articles. Table  2 was developed to chart the following key information from the selected articles: author(s) and year of publication, sample, objective, methodology, summary of findings, and country. Data from each included article were extracted by an independent researcher and counter-evaluated for accuracy or missing information by another researcher. Selected data with counter-information were re-evaluated by the entire team, after which a consensus was reached by the team to regarding the final charted data.

Student’ and Nurses’ perceptions of anatomy and physiology (A&P) learning and integrating A&P learning into nursing practice

Anatomy and physiology; A&P

Data synthesis

A scoping review was employed to identify all relevant literature, followed by a narrative synthesis. Due to heterogeneity across studies and even within studies with similar methodologies, metasynthesis for qualitative data was not possible. Instead, studies were combined to summarize the study characteristics, followed by a textual narrative synthesis. This approach helped arrange disparate study types into more homogenous subgroups, thereby aiding in the synthesis of different types of evidence. Study characteristics, context, quality, and findings have been reported according to a standard format, and their similarities and differences have been compared across studies [ 14 ].

Search outcomes

Search results were exported to the bibliographic software program EndNote (Clarivate Analytics, Philadelphia, PA, USA). Duplicate articles were removed using the literature management software. Data were extracted from the literature management software to Microsoft Excel. Then, two researchers (MH and TF) independently extracted data from the titles and abstracts based on our eligibility criteria. Any disagreements were resolved through discussion between the two authors. Figure  1 presents the PRISMA flowchart [ 15 ] for the study selection process. A total of 2,839 papers were obtained, from which 220 duplicates were eliminated. The number of papers subjected to the title and abstract review was 2619, and the number of papers excluded from title and abstract review was 2571. Further screening of the full text of the remaining 48 articles resulted in the exclusion of 28 articles that were either not original papers or were unrelated to anatomy and physiology education. The excluded papers included 14 nonoriginal reports, 13 cadaveric dissections, and 1 patient simulation. Finally, 20 articles met the inclusion criteria (Fig.  1 ).

An external file that holds a picture, illustration, etc.
Object name is 12912_2023_1436_Fig1_HTML.jpg

PRISMA flow diagram for the study search and selection process (diagram based on that of Page et al. [ 15 ])

A total of nine studies were from Australia; three from the UK; three from New Zealand; and one each from Norway, Korea, Ireland, Scotland, and the USA. Among the 20 articles reviewed, 3 were qualitative, 11 were quantitative, and 6 were mixed methods studies. The study participants were registered nurses in 7 papers and undergraduate student nurses in 13 papers.

Study of anatomy and physiology

Impressions of undergraduate student nurses on anatomy and physiology were as follows: there was much content to learn [ 16 ], it was difficult [ 16 , 17 ], and it required a considerable amount of study time [ 9 , 18 ]. In addition, Montayre [ 19 ] reported that the perceived difficulty of anatomy and physiology was replaced by positive perceptions in the final year. The impressions of registered nurses on anatomy and physiology were as follows: courses in anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology were rated as particularly high priority for learning in the education of student nurses [ 1 ]. However, 40.5% of registered nurses perceived that their anatomy and physiology classes as students were not compatible with actual nursing practice [ 20 ].

Effective learning as perceived by undergraduate student nurses was reported as independent study [ 17 ], class attendance [ 21 , 22 ], active participation in class [ 21 ], use of office hours [ 21 ], and use of core textbooks [ 22 ]. One study reported that understanding the content was important, not memorizing it [ 21 ]. Collaborative classes between anatomy and physiology faculty and nursing specialty area faculty [ 23 ], as well as collaborative learning opportunities between field placement sites and the university [ 24 ], were evaluated highly by the students. Registered nurses agreed that the study of anatomy and physiology should be extended to the final year of undergraduate study [ 25 ].

Undergraduate student nurses with high self-efficacy were more science-oriented and had higher expectations for success in the bioscience course than were students with low self-efficacy [ 26 ]. Several students had anxiety about studying bioscience [ 16 , 27 ]. However, Mortimer-Jones [ 28 ] reported no significant difference in anxiety scores between bioscience and clinical classes.

Several registered nurses perceived their knowledge as low [ 29 ] and considered their anatomy and physiology knowledge inadequate for conducting the nursing process, communicating with other health care professionals, and teaching patients [ 30 ]. Registered nurses also indicated that they lacked confidence in explaining their knowledge of anatomy and physiology as evidence of nursing practice [ 25 ] and wanted to develop more knowledge of these topics [ 9 , 25 ].

Integration of anatomy and physiology into nursing practice

Undergraduate student nurses [ 18 , 31 ] and registered nurses [ 22 , 25 ] recognized that knowledge of anatomy and physiology was important to nursing practice. The students recognized that such knowledge was important for understanding patient pathophysiology, patient observation, treatment selection, and patient safety [ 31 ] and that it forms the basis for nursing practice [ 9 ]. Registered nurses who were confident in their anatomy and physiology knowledge were also capable of explaining the rationale for their nursing practice. They also reported that this promotes patients/family trust in nurses, which they perceived as the basis for building trust with patients and their families [ 31 ]. In addition, registered nurses’ knowledge of anatomy and physiology gave them the confidence to serve as preceptors who influence students’ practice [ 32 ], and practice instructors with sufficient knowledge were able to provide students with opportunities to integrate that knowledge with their nursing practice [ 33 ].

Summary of evidence

This review summarized the perceptions of undergraduate student and registered nurses on anatomy and physiology education in undergraduate nursing programs, as well as their perceptions on the integration of anatomy and physiology into nursing practice. The diversity of assessment methods among the 20 studies, including qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods, may have affected the aggregated data.

Establishment of anatomy and physiology knowledge

Although undergraduate student nurses initially perceived anatomy and physiology as difficult [ 16 , 17 ], this perception changed for the better in their final year [ 19 ] given that clinical practice allowed students to use their knowledge of anatomy and physiology to sharpen their critical thinking skills and clinical judgments [ 19 ].

Encouraging class participation [ 21 , 22 ], use of office hours [ 17 ], and independent study is important so that students’ learning is not hindered by their impression that learning anatomy and physiology is difficult and their learning continues throughout their final year of study [ 25 ]. With regard to continuity of learning, Spencer [ 34 ] believes that continuity of learning, for example, in the training of physicians, will deepen students’ understanding of clinical medicine and how anatomy and physiology and specialized subjects are integrated. Additionally, reports have shown the effectiveness of collaborative teaching between faculty teaching anatomy and physiology and those faculty teaching specialized nursing courses [ 23 ]. Anatomy and physiology are often taught by a diverse group of faculty members, including clinicians, instructors from non-nursing colleges, and instructors with national nursing certifications, several of whom have no experience in clinical nursing practice [ 35 ]. As such, some classes are taught without an understanding of how anatomy and physiology relate to nursing practice. However, studies have shown that when anatomy and physiology is taught by nationally certified nursing faculty, students’ knowledge of anatomy and physiology was insufficient, and that such students would likely not understand basic anatomy and physiology knowledge of diseases and disorders when taking clinically oriented nursing courses [ 36 ]. Given that anatomy and physiology courses importantly serve as the foundation for nursing practice, collaboration between faculty members in charge of anatomy and physiology courses and those in charge of specialized subjects should be required based on the curriculum of each university. In addition, it is important for faculty members in charge of teaching anatomy and physiology to exchange information with faculty members of other universities in order to share effective methods for teaching the course.

Collaboration with clinical nursing instructors

Integration of anatomy and physiology into nursing practice is best achieved through clinical practice experiences. Furthermore, studies have reported that students’ thought processes are enhanced in clinical practice settings wherein the clinical instructor has sufficient knowledge of anatomy and physiology [ 24 ]. For students to learn effectively, the cooperation of not only the faculty but also the practicum supervisor is essential [ 24 ]. Evidence suggests that clinical nurses also want to further develop their knowledge of anatomy and physiology [ 9 , 25 ]. Nurses who are confident in their knowledge of anatomy and physiology have a positive influence on the clinical practice of students [ 32 ]. We believe that providing clinical nurses with opportunities to study anatomy and physiology in the future will facilitate the continuous improvement of student nurses’ practical skills. Future studies need to verify the effectiveness of clinical practice initiatives and new education systems on campus to facilitate the integration of anatomy and physiology knowledge into nursing practice. Research physicians who specialize in basic science or clinically oriented basic science play an important role in bridging the gap between basic specialty and clinical disciplines [ 34 ]. Perhaps inviting more such educators to participate in nursing student education could help integrate anatomy and physiology into nursing practice.

Integration of anatomy and physiology and nursing practice

Apart from acquiring systemic knowledge, it is necessary to visualize how this knowledge is connected to nursing practice and evaluate students’ academic achievement.

Studies have suggested that knowledge of anatomy and physiology is associated with patient safety [ 31 ], decision making, and building trust [ 32 ]. However, given the limited research reports on these perspectives, there is a need to understand the overall picture in the future and visualize how knowledge of anatomy and physiology is specifically linked to nursing practice. To link knowledge of anatomy and physiology to nursing practice, it is important to clarify the goals within each subject while considering the curriculum of each university, so that students themselves are aware of what they should learn. The use of clinical material created for medical students’ anatomy and physiology courses increases the relevance of the course to students and improves students’ knowledge retention [ 34 ].

In the future, research will need to facilitate thinking that enhances the effectiveness of learning and integrates it with nursing practice, examine educational content and methods, and evaluate their effectiveness. Therefore, appropriate evaluation of the achievement objectives for anatomy and physiology is necessary to clarify how learning anatomy and physiology facilitates nursing practice and determine how to promote sufficient learning among students.

Limitations

For this scoping review, database searches were limited to studies pertaining to education in anatomy, physiology, and biological sciences, and keywords such as “pathophysiology” and “microbiology” were not used. National nursing school designations vary, and curricula are uniquely developed by each training school. Because the design of anatomy and physiology courses (i.e., textbooks, time, teaching methods, and examination methods) varied among schools, a critical evaluation was not conducted. Because this aimed to identify perceptions regarding the integration of anatomy and physiology learning into nursing practice, the quality of each literature review was not evaluated. The student and nurse perceptions in this study may have been influenced by differences in the course design.

Regarding perceptions on integrating anatomy and physiology into nursing practice, students reported that anatomy and physiology knowledge was important for patient safety and understanding the patient’s condition, whereas nurses reported that such knowledge was related to explaining the rationale of nursing practice, building trust, and effective practice teaching. In the future, research needs to clarify the attainment goals related to the integration of anatomy and physiology into nursing practice for students enrolled in a bachelor’s program. It is also necessary to establish an anatomy and physiology education system that connects anatomy and physiology with nursing practice and to examine the effectiveness of such an education system.

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank all researchers whose articles were used in this review study.

Authors’ contributions

MHH; concept design; data collection, analysis and interpretation, drafting of manuscript. TF: participated in the data collection; YS; participated in the study design, data collection and analysis. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

This research and development project was funded by the Tokiwa University Research Incentive Grant.

Data availability

Declarations.

The authors declare no competing interests.

Not applicable.

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

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