8 Gutsy Study Mnemonics for Nurse Practitioner Students

Seven years into my nurse practitioner career, I still recite many of the mnemonics from my nurse practitioner school days. “Female, fat, fertile and forty…”, yep, this patient fits the bill for an acute cholecystitis diagnosis… A few simple memorization tricks can make life as an NP student much more manageable. So, next time you’re studying for an anatomy final or preparing to be grilled on your next clinical rotation, have a few mnemonics up your sleeve.

Here are a few of my favorite mnemonics relating to assessment, diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal system disorders that just might help nurse practitioners to-be.

Abdominal Assessment: Physical Exam

What is the physical exam telling you? Simply remember DR. GERM.

Distension (Liver problems, bowel obstruction)

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Rigidity (Board like, caused by internal bleeding)


Ecchymosis (Blunt abdominal trauma, ruptured ectopic, acute pancreatitis, ruptured aortic aneurysm, spontaneous bleeding related to anticoagulopathy)

Rebound tenderness (Infection)

Masses (Neoplasm)

Abdominal Assessment: Signs of Chronic Liver Disease

It’s as simple as ABCDEFGHIJ.

Ascites, Atrophy of testicles, Ankle edema, Asterixis


Clubbing, Color change of nails

Dupuytren’s Contracture

Encephalopathy, Erythema of palms

Foetor hepaticus



Increased parotid size


Differential Diagnoses: Causes of Acute Abdominal Pain

What’s going on with your patient’s BAD GUT PAINS?

Bowel Obstruction

Appendicitis, Adenitis (mesenteric)

Diverticulitis, Diabetic Ketoacidosis, Diarrhea, Drug withdrawal

Gastroenteritis, Gallbladder disease

Urinary tract obstruction (stone), Urinary tract infection

Testicular torsion, toxin (lead)

Pneumonia, Pleurisy, Pancreatitis, Perforated bowel

Abdominal aneurysm

INfarcted bowel, Infarcted myocardium, Incarcerated hernia, Inflammatory bowel disease

Splenic rupture/infection, Sickle cell crisis

Differential Diagnoses: Causes of Abdominal Swelling

Swollen? Bloated? Distended? The 9 F’s may be the key to your diagnosis.

Fat (Time to hit the gym…)

Feces (Constipation, bowel obstruction)

Fluid (Ascites)

Flatus (Diet, dysphagia)

Fetus (Hey, preggo…)

Full-sized tumors

Full bladder (Urinary retention)


False pregnancy

Differential Diagnoses: Causes of Hepatomegaly

Keep the 3 common and 3 rarer C’s in mind when looking for the cause of an enlarged liver.

3 Common C’s



Cardiac Failure

3 Rarer C’s:



Cellular Infiltration

Differential Diagnoses: Vomiting 

Vomiting may not be an indication of an abdoninal diagnosis. Don’t overlook extra GI causes!

Vestibular disturbance or Vagal causes


Migraine or Metabolic causes (DKA, gastroparesis, hypercalcemia)


Toxcicity (cytotoxic, digitalis toxicity)

Increased ICP, Ingested alcohol

Neurogenic, psychogenic


Differential Diagnoses: Right Lower Quadrant Abdominal Pain

Appendicitis is not always to blame. But, the word can aid in identifying other possibilities.


Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, Period (menstrual)


Endometriosis, Ectopic Pregnancy





Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Torsion (ovarian)

Irritable Bowel Syndrome


Treatment: H. Pylori Regimen

Please Make Tummy Better’ is a common request of patients with H. pylori. Here’s how to make it happen. 

Proton Pump Inhibitor




Which mnemonics help you as a nurse practitioner student?

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