As a doctor, you are going to need to make sure that you are studying up on various disciplines to become the best doctor you can be. These can include medication, patient bedside manners, empathy, leadership, and more. While you don’t need to be an expert, you should focus on making sure that you know a lot about different types of diseases and other issues, and being any type of medical professional means that you will always be learning.
However, there is one thing that you need to learn in the medical field, and it is something that isn’t often thought of when it comes to medication: physiology. While you might think it is a bit more appropriate for a biology class and not a medical field, physiology has a lot of different benefits as well as connections in the medical field. Additionally, the more that you study about physiology, the better you will be able to treat patients.
Here’s everything you need to know about physiology, why it is so important to the medical field, and the reason why all that studying is going to support your patients.
What is physiology?
Like any good medical discipline, we are going to focus on definitions first. Physiology is the study of the functions and mechanisms of a living system. In terms of biology and medical care, this field of study focuses on why organs, organ systems, and cells work the way they do and how they carry out the physical and chemical functions that organs and organisms need to survive. In layman’s terms, why does the body work the way it does, and what processes ensure it will work that way?
There are many different fields of physiology, focusing on many different living things that include plants, animals, and of course the human body. We will be focusing on the human body and physiology, which shows how the systems and functions of the human body work and keep the internal functions of the body stable. Human physiology focuses on all of the systems of the body, including the nervous, endocrine, cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, and urinary systems, as well as cellular and exercise physiology.
This can be as high-level as looking at each of the systems themselves and determining how they work or delving deep into one system and looking at the various functions and cells that make up that one system. It studies life and how life interacts with the various systems around them.
The more that we can understand what happens when every single system of the body works together perfectly, the better prepared we can be when a health condition causes one or more systems to stop working. Of course, there’s plenty of study that we can make on a very healthy body, but the biggest study comes from when a disease hits the body and causes multiple systems to go out of whack.
What are disease states?
According to the Collins dictionary, a disease is “any impairment of normal physiological function affecting all or part of an organism, especially a specific pathological change caused by infection, stress or other factors producing characteristic symptoms; illness or sickness in general.” Being in a state of that description is called a “disease state.” Essentially, you are unwell, and some system of your body is not working properly as it would if you were well.
Think about the healthy human body as a control group. It acts a certain way whenever it is perfectly healthy and no illnesses or injuries are acting on it. Now, if that body gets sick, say with allergies that can affect the respiratory and digestive systems, doctors can compare the sick body to a healthy body in order to determine what is going on and why the disease is affecting the body in the way it is.
This leads to two additional fields of study: pathology and pathophysiology. Let’s dive deeper into that.
What is pathology?
Pathology is the study of the causes and effects of an illness or injury on the body, as well as how certain diseases are diagnosed. You might not think about it when you go to the hospital and rattle off a list of symptoms to your nurse, but your nurse needs to analyze your symptoms and run tests in order to make sure that they are diagnosing you with the correct disease. Otherwise, if you are misdiagnosed for even the smallest illness, that can cause a lot of trouble for everyone involved.
The first of job of any nurse dealing with a patient, no matter why or how they are encountering the patient, is to ensure that they are communicating with the patient and getting all the information they can. Even the best medical records and history just aren’t as important as hearing how the patient is feeling directly from the patient’s mouth. With all of this communication, a proper course of treatment can be created with pathophysiology.
If physiology is all about how the human body works, then pathology is all about how these diseases and illnesses work – how they are caused, how they spread, how they affect the cells and systems of the body, and the consequences of those changes. Like physiology, there are many different ways to understand pathology and to study it, and they can go as deep or as big-picture as you would like.
Combining them together with pathophysiology
Finally, we get down to pathophysiology, which combines the two previous disciplines in order to see what happens to our bodies when we get sick with an illness or injury. Basically, it asks what happens inside of the patient during a diseased state?
Whenever we are in a diseased state, we are sick and suffering, and pathophysiology seeks to discover what is happening to us during that time. This is where doctors and nurses focus on what the disease is doing to the body of the patient, and they also focus on how they can stop the actions of the disease and ensure that patients can get themselves back to a state of health.
Additionally, this can help if the illness or injury has many stages. For example, illnesses like cancer or Lyme disease that have many stages of severity need to be treated in different ways depending on the stage that they are in. Without pathophysiology, doctors and nurses wouldn’t have a keen understanding of the various stages of the disease, which could lead to some serious problems.
By understanding how the body is supposed to function with a control group of a healthy body, and by looking at the way that the body is functioning during a time of illness of injury, doctors and nurses can work to get the diseased state back to the normal state through medication and medical procedures. For instance, if someone with allergies came in and needed help, the doctors would know that the body isn’t supposed to be so inflamed or produce so much mucus, so medication would be given to reduce the effects.
Why does this matter?
So now that we have all the definitions and medical items out of the way, it is time to delve into why all of this matters. Why does the study of the human body, diseases, and their effects matter?
It allows doctors and nurses to better help and support their patients in the long run by making it much easier for medical professionals to know what is wrong and how to fix it. Most doctors and nurses know how things like viruses, the common cold, broken bones, and other illnesses and injuries affect the body, and they then know how the body is when those illnesses and injuries aren’t there. Using all of that knowledge, they can make sure that they prescribe the right medicine and that they give their patients the correct treatment.
This not only makes treating trivial illnesses and injuries much easier, but it also ensures that the correct treatments are given at the correct time to get the body back on track to being healthy. Understanding things like the various stages of an infection, the various stages that a broken bone needs to go through to heal, and various other items can help patients get healthier much more quickly.
How do you study these terms?
So, you know that studying these terms is extremely important and that if you know how the body works in both a healthy state and a diseased state you will be able to treat the patient much more quickly. However, there are many processes and systems in a healthy body, and you can go pretty deep into it all. Not to mention the thousands of illnesses and injuries that a body can be infected with, all of which also need to be analyzed and understood.
So how do you, as a nurse practitioner, study these terms and have the ability to pull them up in the field whenever you are working with patients? Well, you can look at some of these AGPCNP programs from the University of Indianapolis, which offers some of the best online Bachelor of Science in Nursing Doctor of Nursing Practice Adult Gerontology Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (BSN-DSP AGPCNP) programs in the country.
The program at the University of Indianapolis teaches you everything you need to know about delivering the best type of care to adults across a wide spectrum of needs and disciplines, and once you have your degree you can focus on the fields of care you prefer. In the program, students will learn all about the relationships between the body at a normal state and a diseased state, as well as understanding what signs and symptoms of various illnesses that they will see in their patients. The name of the game is identification because the faster patients can have their illnesses and injuries identified by a doctor, the faster they can get quality care.
You just need to start memorizing
Honestly, there is no easy way to get all the symptoms and diseases down quickly other than memorization. Thankfully, some illnesses are more common than others and are therefore more important to memorize. For example, if you work with young children, you might need to look at the symptoms of allergies, sore throats, and maybe the occasional broken bone. However, if you are working in an intensive care unit, you will need to have more illnesses and injuries memorized, and in that environment, speed is better.
Flash cards, study groups, and other methods of memorization can make the process easy for you, but at the end of the day, this field of study is all about being able to absorb, memorize, and recall information. But the moment it gets hard, you need to remember that all the information you are collecting might just save someone’s life. The faster you can figure out what illness or injury is plaguing them, the faster you can help get them the correct treatment.
Get excited and be prepared to help
No matter what, it can be very exciting to see exactly how the body works and why certain injuries and illnesses affect the body and the various systems the way they do. Human bodies are wonderful things, and the more that you know about them, the better. For this branch of medical science, knowing is half the battle, and the more you know, the more people you are going to be able to help.
So don’t be afraid to focus on getting a deeper understanding of the human body and its enemies with these fields of study, because that information will help you keep your patients on the road to health.