Best Anatomy and Physiology Books for Nurses

Whether you're a nurse, nursing student, or any other type of medical professional, being well-versed in anatomy and physiology is essential for the job. Knowledge of anatomy and physiology is fundamental to all medical professions, and a highly advanced knowledge base of a particular aspect of anatomy and physiology is often required when working in a specific setting, rotation, or specialty field.

Generally speaking, nursing students and medical students are usually the ones who are studying anatomy and physiology most actively. If you fall into this category, chances are you already have assigned textbooks for your class. What I have personally found useful is supplementing the required materials with some other resource, for example, flash cards or a different type of textbook that is either simplified or more specific to an area of study that I'm having problems with.

Therefore, in this article, we will provide our Top 5 picks for the best anatomy and physiology resources for nurses, nursing students, med students, and any other medical professional or student. While the title of this article only states "books", we will expand our selection to also include resources like flash cards. These reviews are not ranked/graded in any particular order, as we show a variety of types, and what resource is best for you will depend on your own individual circumstances. For other helpful nursing resources, check out our articles on lab values for nurses and Spanish for nurses.

Anatomy & Physiology Resources - Reviews

The Anatomy Coloring Book, 4th Ed.


I always thought human anatomy coloring books were a little silly until I actually used one. This anatomy coloring book provides a great blend between stress relief and studying, which is a combination that is tough to find anywhere else. The simple act of coloring provides a sense of calm and is actually kind of fun, but yet you're still focusing on and thinking about the anatomical structures that you're coloring.

That being said, if you're not careful, it can be easy to lose focus and go into auto-pilot mode, which will end up with you coloring potentially without learning more about the actual anatomy. For this reason, we highly suggest trying to maintain focus while coloring. You don't need to be reciting origins, insertions, innervation, actions, and clinical presentations. Rather, simply identifying structures that you are coloring might be good enough.

For example, let's say you're coloring the extensor digitorum muscle in the posterior compartment of the forearm. When you're coloring the muscle, just paying attention to the general area of origin and insertion can help you remember that information during a test, or at least reduce the number of possible selections. Another thing I found helpful was to try and color code structures based on something meaningful. For example, with muscles in the forearm, this could be color coding by innervation, or if you're coloring the ribs, you may want to color code by true versus false ribs, or something of that nature. For me, I found having a highly visual learning experience like this was able to help me recall information more quickly on a test and confidently on exams, but I do recognize that everyone has their own study style.

In regards to this human anatomy coloring book itself, this one is what we would consider to be the gold standard. There are some other coloring books available, but this is the one I've seen in most book stores and is also widely available online. Chapters are generally organized by system (e.g. muscular system, nervous system, etc) and then by regions of the body. One nice aspect is that they provide a decent amount of information throughout the book, leaving space for you to write your own notes as well. The information isn't too detailed, but it's a nice way to keep your brain focused on learning while you enjoy the coloring process.

Overall, this is a great study tool for nursing students, med students, or any other student or profession in the medical field who wants to brush up on their anatomy in a way that's more fun than simply reading a textbook. The information isn't overly comprehensive, but the main idea here is that you can identify and briefly explain all of the anatomical structures, which the visual representation is a key factor. So while it won't serve to address the full curriculum of a nursing or med student, it is great as a supplemental study tool to boost your understanding of the material.

Kaplan Medical Anatomy Flashcards


Anatomy flashcards are another great supplemental study tool to help you learn human anatomy. If you are a nursing student or med student, you may already be familiar with these, but chances are they are not listed as a required "textbook". Some sort of anatomy flashcards may be available at your institutions bookstore, but as you may have already learned, any items found in bookstores at colleges and universities tend to be way overpriced.

Kaplan is a very well-known and reliable education company that offers a variety of textbooks and other study materials for health care professions. For example, they publish one of the most popular NCLEX-RN review books currently on the market. Regarding these anatomy flashcards specifically, the Kaplan version offers a mid-range standard package that is very well-liked overall.

By flashcard standards, the Kaplan Medical Anatomy Flashcards are available online at a mid-range price point. They offer a good amount of information without adding in too much potentially confusing detail. This set comes with 300 anatomical illustrations that are clearly labelled and in full color. More detailed explanations are found on the reverse side of the card, allowing you to learn as you quiz yourself and identify your strengths and where you need to improve.

Overall, this is a great set of anatomy flashcard without any major complaints. Any customer complaints are usually based in minor personal preference issues. For example, if you want them on a ring, you will have to punch your own holes, and some people were hoping they would come with a section on cell composition (which they don't). However, those minor issues aside, these are a great set of flashcards that we would highly recommend for any nursing student or medical student who will be examined on the material.

Clinical Pathophysiology Made Ridiculously Simple, 1st Ed.


Lots of times it's easy to think that in order to understand the material better or more comprehensively, that it's best to dive into deeper detail. Sure, this can help sometimes, but personally, I simply find mixing up the source of material to be just as helpful. If I have a loose understanding of a particular concept, I find having that concept explained in a more simple sense can often help. Whether I'm over-complicating things, or just simply didn't realize that I was overlooking something fundamental, having more than one soruce of information presented in different ways is usually helpful. 

One nice thing about this particular book is that simplifying the information generally leads to a smaller book, and subsequently, a much lower cost than a formal and more comprehensive textbook. This book provides an overview of the main concepts in pathophysiology and the mechanisms of disease, which is designed to ease the transition from basic science to clinical applications. Depending on your curriculum, this is a great book for med students who are transitioning from 2nd to 3rd year, and is also suitable for nursing students.

Overall, we think this is a great tool to supplement your learning, either by reading before diving into more detailed concepts, or to simply re-affirm your understanding of a particular concept. It's extremely well-reviewed by medical students and nursing students alike, and fortunately, it's also highly affordable, especially by textbook standards. We highly recommend this book if you want an extra tool to further your understanding of clinical pathophysiology.

Human Anatomy and Physiology, 10th Ed.


This is where we will start getting into the more formal textbooks. Human Anatomy and Physiology, 10th Ed, is an extremely comprehensive resource for learning human anatomy and physiology. Given this is a beefier resource, it comes at a much higher cost than a coloring book or flashcards, but you have all the information you need in one spot. If you already have a required textbook for course, it could be difficult to justify spending the money on a completely different textbook as well, but if you have flexibility in what book you choose, this is a great choice.

One of the authors, Dr. Marieb, has taken the student perspective into account when writing this textbook, which helps bridge the gap between basic science and its application in a clinical setting. After receiving a PhD in Zoology, this author then went on to receive her nursing education with a specialization in gerentology, so her perspective may be especially useful for nursing students.

The other author, Dr. Hoehn, is and MD and Professor in Canada. With a PhD in pharmacology and a wealth of experience in teaching, especially in the physiology domains, Dr. Hoehn offers a reliable and experience-based source of information that students can count on, and having two authors compliment each other's styles is always a good thing in our opinion.

Some people have found that they are happy with a previous version of the book that can usually be found for a little cheaper, but the 10th edition does come with more detailed information, which can be expected as new research updates our understanding of various physiological concepts.

Overall, this is an excellent textbook for anatomy and physiology, especially for medical students or nursing students. Every textbook of this status will have very knowledgeable authors, but this is especially true in this case, as the authors combine to provide a wealth of expertise while still incorporating the student perspective and maintaining a down-to-earth practical approach to learning anatomy and physiology.

Fundamentals of Anatomy and Physiology, 10th Ed.


This textbook is fairly similar to the Human Anatomy and Physiology textbook that we reviewed above, both in terms of comprehensiveness and cost. This is a more formal textbook that may already be required for some of your courses, but if not, is suitable as a helpful study tool for anatomy and physiology.

If you're a nursing student or medical student who is already extremely busy keeping up with required readings and other tasks, then you probably won't have much time to work through this textbook. However, if you have flexibility in the textbook you choose, or do think that you will benefit from a supplementary study tool that is just as comprehensive, if not more, than your current textbook, then this can be a great option.

There are three author and two illustrators involved in the creation of this textbook. Dr. Martini received his PhD from Cornell University and has been highly involved with the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society (HAPS) at the highest ranks, and has contributed to many other similar texts. Dr. Nath is a biology professor at Lourdes College and teaches anatomy and physiology, pathophysiology, medical terminology, and pharmacology, so this is right up her alley, especially as she strives to provide information that is both meaningful and interesting for the students. Ed Bartholomew also teaches anatomy and physiology at a secondary and undergraduate level, and hs experiences with a range of students provide further value to this textbook.

Overall, this is an excellent textbook to further your understanding of anatomy and physiology. It can be found much cheaper online than in most school bookstores, but one thing to note is that some students find the kindle version to be pretty bad, so we would play it safe and go with a hard copy. Also, this textbook is fairly similar in layout to other textbooks published by Pearson, so if you really like or really hate other Pearson textbooks, we would definitely include that as a consideration. Otherwise, if you're open to a range of textbooks, this stands out as one of the top options.

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