How to Conquer Pathophysiology as a Dietetics Student

Hello, everyone and happy Tuesday! Once again, it’s been quite some time since I posted on this blog. I spent the second half of the spring semester dealing with a heavy workload, burnout, and personal issues, so posting fell to the bottom of my to-do list. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from this past semester, it’s that managing a blog on top of school and other responsibilities isn’t easy. But I’ve missed writing on here! So, to ease back into my regular posting schedule, I thought I’d share about my experience and tips from my Pathophysiology class this past semester.

Already mastered Pathophysiology? Check out my blog post on Medical Nutrition Therapy!

At the beginning of the year, I thought I wasn’t going to enjoy many of my classes, especially Pathophysiology. At my school, dietetics students must take Anatomy & Physiology I and II and Microbiology before taking Pathophysiology. Although I did well in all those classes, I still dreaded Patho. I had heard stories from friends in the nursing program about the pages of notes to review for the tests, the level of detail required, and worst of all, the comprehensive final. It didn’t help that before taking this class, I didn’t think I was interested in the disease side of physiology.

My thoughts on the class were much different, however, after just the first session. The professor took her time explaining the lecture in a clear, uncomplicated manner. More surprising to me, I found the material interesting! You may think you don’t care for a subject, but if you haven’t ever studied it before, you don’t really know.

Pathophysiology Study Tips

What do you need to know to be successful in Pathophysiology? Here’s what I learned from my experience.

Review Study Materials

Ultimately, the hardest part of Pathophysiology wasn’t what we learned, but how much we had to learn! The class met for lecture once a week. To keep up with the professor, I had to review before and after class. For me, this meant skimming the textbook and our note outlines. But for you this could be watching videos over what you cover in class, talking it out with a friend, or making notes of your own.

a piece of printer paper filled with tiny notes on important Pathophysiology terms
Some of my study notes before our final test

Be Willing to Adapt

Something I discovered while taking this class was that I had to adapt how I studied. For most classes, I would make and review Quizlets and do fine. But because of the sheer volume of material that we covered each week, I barely had time to make a Quizlet, let alone review it. Instead, I found that reviewing my notes, making connections, and understanding processes helped so much more than a Quizlet. The diseases we covered in class often have stages or multiple cause/effect situations. When I took the time to walk myself through the material, I did much better seeing the big picture compared to the fragments I might gather from a Quizlet.

If you give Patho the time and attention it deserves, your hard work will pay off!

Focus on Key Differences

Something else I picked up from a friend who had taken the class is that if problems have too many overlapping manifestations (electrolyte imbalances, for example), focus mainly on learning the key differences. Often, a disease might have one key cause or symptom that uniquely identifies it. Don’t make that key identifier the only thing you learn, but use it to recognize diseases on tests.

Study with Class Friends

I had a friend who was also in Patho with me. When we started studying together towards the end of the semester it made such a difference. She really helped me understand what we learned! A study partner can give you insights on diseases and share mnemonics or other creative ideas to help your studies stick. You can also divide and conquer the work if you’re making charts or teaching each other the material.


If I could summarize my advice for Pathophysiology in one sentence, it would be this: be flexible. You might find that you have to put more effort into studying or change how you study. But if you give Patho the time and attention it deserves, your hard work will pay off!

Have you taken Pathophysiology or are you about to? How do you feel about the class?

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