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I don’t know about you, but when I started nursing school, I couldn’t remember as much from anatomy and physiology as I should have (and was expected from me). Up-regulation of receptors? Oh right…that’s actually a thing. Langerhan’s cells? Don’t those produce bile or something?…No?…Darn.

But probably the one I was most embarrassed about was the pathway of blood flow through the heart. To this day I can’t believe I actually forgot it. Mostly because it is beaten into you all through high school biology, college biology 101, and then again in A&P. And yet, I forgot it. So I’m thinking, I’m probably not the only one. 😉

The majority of patients you will take care of in an acute care setting have problems with their heart. This could be anything from paroxysmal atrial fibrillation to left-sided heart failure. And you are on the front lines taking care of them, giving them their medications and educating them on their condition. So it is super important that you know how the heart works as a nursing student.

So let’s review together, friend!

Pathway of Blood Through the Heart

The heart is divided up into four main chambers: the right atrium, the right ventricle, the left atrium, and the left ventricle. The right side of the heart pumps blood to the lungs and the left side of the heart pumps blood to the rest of the body.

The first place blood goes is the right atrium. Blood that does not have oxygen (deoxygenated blood) flows from the body via the inferior and superior vena canva and from the coronary arteries via the coronary sinus and is dumped into the right atrium.

This deoxygenated blood moves through the tricuspid valve into the right ventricle, and then moves through the pulmonic valve into the pulmonary arteries and goes to the lungs. The lungs then oxygenate the blood through gas exchange.

This oxygen rich (oxygenated) blood moves from the lungs into the left atrium via the left and right pulmonary veins. The blood then moves from the left atrium, through the mitral valve, to the left ventricle.

The left ventricle then sends the oxygenated blood through the aortic valve, into the aorta, and sends it on it’s way to the rest of the body.

Well, there you have it, friend! Now you can impress your classmates with your awesome memory. Your secret is safe with me! 🙂