After taking a few one day ultrasound courses, a common theme amongst classmates is something to the effect of, “well, I get it now, but what about next week when the instructor isn’t there to guide me?”
Admittedly, I have wondered about the same thing; and wondered about the retention of knowledge and ability to apply what you have learned at these 1-2 day crash courses.
So you think you cant learn ultrasound? Or that you can not retain it after a weekend course? Well, those damn whippersnappers from Oregon are putting the non-believers to shame.
Medicine interns at Oregon Health & Science University were taught point of care ultrasound 3 months into their first year, as one day of a 5 day medical “boot-camp.” The day-long program consisted of 15-20 minutes of didactic training, and was followed by a 40 minute hands on session. Learners were placed in groups of 2-3 individuals and taught one-hour modules consisting of: the basics (knobology, physics, etc), CLUE protocol, FAST exam, hydronephrosis eval, and aorta & neck anatomy. The 40 minute hands on portion was divided into 20 minutes for completing modules demonstrating pathology on SonoSim machines and 20 min for facilitator-led hands-on practice with volunteer models. (example- 20 didactic minutes learning FAST, 20 minutes on simulation, then 20 minutes on a real-live person!). This was followed by two optional 1 hour courses done within 6 months.
A 30 question multiple choice test was administered prior to the course to all 33 interns, testing image interpretation, image acquisition/optimization, and clinical applications of ultrasound. The test was re-administered 6 months later; there was a significant drop out rate (27%), and it was untracked as to whom took the optional one hour courses.
Mean pretest scores – 61%
Mean post-test scores- 85%
Mean 6 month post-test scores – 79%
Great news – We probably intuitively know & retain much more than we think, but just have to continue to pick up the probe to hone our craft. Bad news, I’m not certain that an ability to retain enough knowledge to improve a multiple choice test score is the same as making a correct clinical decision off of limited ultrasound skills. Admittedly, POCUS in the wrong hands can be a problem, and making clinical decisions based off limited ultrasound skills and knowledge is a difficult leap to take, but its one we invariably have to make in order to grow as a clinician.
So, yeah, don’t tell me you can’t learn ultrasound.