5 science-backed ways nurses can improve memory

These Foods May Help Prevent Memory Loss

Nursing may be one of the few areas where your memory works better the older you get. "As you go along, you learn and you don't tend to forget to do things when you're distracted by new stimuli," noted veteran nurse Lois Millsap, a certified wound, ostomy and continence nurse. But if you haven’t worked long at a certain position or facility, you can still jump-start your memory skills. You don't need flash cards to build your memory, either, according to researchers. Instead, try these science-backed memory hacks:

Meditate mindfully. Even if you only have time for brief bouts, meditation can enhance your memory according to Harvard Medical School studies. They showed that daily normal brain function was improved both during meditation and afterwards, with the benefits evident after eight weeks, even when participants had no prior experience with meditating. "Mindfulness meditation has been reported to enhance numerous mental abilities, including rapid memory recall," Catherine Kerr of Harvard Medical School's Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging and the Osher Research Center told Psych Central. "Our discovery that mindfulness meditators more quickly adjusted the brain wave that screens out distraction could explain their superior ability to rapidly remember and incorporate new facts."

» RELATED: 6 great sources of nurse-break meditation prompts

Engage with video games. A 2017 study published in Behavioural Brain Research found that video gamers had "stronger activation clusters" in several interconnected areas of the brain that are "related to attentional processes. All these areas are connected with each other and represent critical nodes for semantic memory, visual imagery and cognitive control."

"This scientific recommendation may make you laugh, especially if your parents told you to stop playing so many video games when you were younger," noted Entrepreneur. "While you don't want to spend hours and hours every day playing video games if you're trying to run a company, it's a good regular pastime to exercise your brain."

Consume caffeine. Isn't this convenient? According to Fast Company, one of the important brain activities involved in memory is consolidation. "Our brain sends signals in a particular pattern associated with the event we're experiencing and creates connections between our neurons, called synapses," FC explained. "If we didn't do anything further, that memory would fall right out of our heads again. Consolidation is the process of committing it to long-term memory so we can recall it later." There's no current research that proves caffeine helps form memories, but a 2014 study published in Nature Neuroscience concluded "caffeine enhanced consolidation of long-term memories in humans."

» RELATED: Coffee, friend or foe for night shift nurses?

Eat berries. You can't get more specific than memory information drawn from a study of nurses! According to Harvard researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH), who used nurses as their study subjects, a diet with lots of flavonoid-rich berries can stave off memory decline by 2.5 years. "Women who consumed two or more servings of strawberries and blueberries each week we saw a modest reduction in memory decline. This effect appears to be attainable with relatively simple dietary modifications," Harvard researcher Elizabeth Devore told the Harvard Gazette.

Try 30 minutes of "acute" exercise. This may seem unfair, but the best memory boost occurs with "acute" exercise, not just the everyday activity nurses experience at work. According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, "acute exercise was associated with significantly greater semantic memory activation in the middle frontal, inferior temporal, middle temporal, and fusiform gyri... Greater brain activation following a single session of exercise suggests that exercise may increase neural processes underlying semantic memory activation in healthy older adults."

» RELATED: 9 weight loss tips for busy nurses

To these scientific findings, Milsap would add one other memory enhancer based on personal experience. Instead of trying to remember every single step when the pace gets stressful, make it a point to remember to use your facility's checklist. "Hospitals have really made an effort to put those checklists in place," she said. "If you can make it a habit to go through the list, you can prompt your memory even at the most distracting times."