8 Brainy Study Mnemonics for Nurse Practitioner Students

As a nurse practitioner student, I would often create my own study mnemonics. My efforts were met with varied rates of success. At times, my attempts resulted in such hair-brained sentences that I couldn’t recall the mnemonic itself come test time, much less what it’s words represented. Ultimately, I opted for tried and true memory tools recommended by instructors and other students. Final exams are just around the corner, so if you’re a nurse practitioner student consider adding the following neurology mnemonics to your test taking strategy. 

Anatomy: Cranial Nerves 

As a list of 12, cranial nerves can be difficult to remember. So, don’t forget ‘On Old Olympus’ Towering Top A Fin And German Viewed Some Hops’. 

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Olfactory nerve (CN I)

Optic nerve (CN II)

Oculormotor nerve (CN III)

Trochlear nerve (CN IV)

Trigeminal nerve (CN V)

Abducens nerve (CN VI)

Facial nerve (CN VII)

Auditory (or vestibulocochlear) nerve (CN VIII)

Glossopharyngeal nerve (CN IX)

Vagus nerve (CN X)

Spinal accessory nerve (CN XI)

Hypoglossal nerve (CN XII)


Anatomy: Cranial Nerves, Sensory vs. Motor

Similarly, recalling the functional information of the cranial nerves in order is tough come test time. The phrase ‘Some Say Marry Money But My Brother Says Big Brains Matter More’ will help. 

Sensory (olfactory nerve – CN I)

Sensory (optic nerve – CN II)

Motor (oculormotor nerve – CN III)

Motor (trochlear nerve – CN IV)

Both (trigeminal nerve – CN V)

Motor (abducens nerve – CN VI)

Both (facial nerve – CN VII)

Sensory (vestibulocochlear nerve – CN VIII)

Both (glossopharyngeal nerve – CN IX)

Both (vagus nerve – CN X)

Motor (spinal accessory nerve – CN XI)

Motor (hypoglossal nerve – CN XII)


Neurological Assessment: Head Trauma Rapid Neuro Exam

Assessing trauma patients requires quick thinking. The next time you treat a head injury patient, don’t forget to consider the 12 P’s. 

Psychological (mental) status

Pupils (size, symmetry, reaction)

Paired ocular movements


Pressure (BP, increased ICP)

Pulse and rate

Paralysis, Paresis

Pyramidal signs

Pin prick sensory response

Pee (incontinent)

Patellar reflex (and others)



Neurological Assessment: Mental State Examination

Distinguishing neurological and psychological problems is essential in your nurse practitioner practice. The algorithm ‘Assessed Mental State To Be Positively Clinically Unremarkable’ will help guide you through the mental status examination. 

Appearance and behavior (observe state, clothing.)


Speech (rate, form, content)

Thinking (thoughts, perceptions)

Behavioral abnormalities

Perception abnormalities

Cognition (time, place, age)

Understanding of condition (ideas, expectations, concerns)


Risk Factors: Stroke in Young Patients

Treating a young patient with a CVA? The 7 C’s may lead you to the culprit. 


Consanguinity (familial such as neurofibromatosis and von Hippel-Lindau)


Cardiogenic emboli


CNS infection (ex: HIV conditions)

Congenital arterial lesion


Risk Factors: Stroke 

Assessing risk factors is essential to preventative primary care efforts. Maintain an awareness of the risk factors for stroke in your practice using the mnemonic HEADS. 



Atrial fibrillation

Diabetes mellitus/Drugs

Smoking/Sex (male)


Differential Diagnoses: Causes of Vertigo

Determining the cause of a patient’s vertigo can be challenging. Use the mnemonic VOMITS to keep the differential diagnoses of vertigo in mind. 


Ototoxic drugs

Meniere’s disease



Spin (benign positional vertigo)


Differential Diagnoses: Causes of Peripheral Neuropathy

Tingling in the toes? Consider the following differential diagnoses using the mnemonic STAGLAND in evaluating peripheral neuropathy. 










Disease: Metabolic Causes of Altered Level of Consciousness

Can’t think straight? METABOLIC will guide your efforts to recall associated causes of altered level of consciousness. 

Major end organs (liver, kidney)




Base disorders


Lung (PE, pneumonia)




Disease: Reversible Causes of Dementia

Your elderly patient may truly be suffering from a case of the crazies rather than long-term effects of aging. To assess the situation, use the name of the disease itself, DEMENTIA. 

Drug toxicity

Emotional (depression, anxiety, OCD, etc.)

Metabolic (electrolytes, liver disease, kidney disease, COPD)

Eyes/Ears (peripheral sensory restrictions)

Nutrition (vitamin, iron deficiencies)/Normal pressure hydrocephalus

Tumors/Trauma (including chronic subdural hematoma)

Infection (meningitis, encephalitis, pneumonia, syphilis)

Arteriosclerosis and other vascular disease


Which mnemonics have helped you as a nurse practitioner student?


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