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Bedside ultrasound training for students

Acquisition and Long-tern Retention of Bedside Ultrasound Skills in First-Year Medical Students. Steinmetz P, Oleskevich S, and Lewis J.   J Ultrasound Med 2016; 35: e53-e61.

Reviewed by Patricia McBurney

Tags:: Pre-clerkship, technical skills, observation

What was the study question?
Can first year medical students learn and retain bedside ultrasound skills?

How was the study done?
In 2013 195 first year medical students at McGill University, participated in a mandatory 6 session series of ultrasound laboratories. A textbook with web-instructional videos provided preparation and reinforcement. Skill acquisition was measured by evaluations using 4-point Likert scales completed by preceptors and students after each session. The 6 skills sessions focused on: dyspnea, hypotension, abdominal aortic aneurysm, free abdominal fluid, kidney injury, and swollen leg.

Skill retention was measured by practical exam at the dyspnea station 8 months after the first of the 6 sessions. Students and preceptors completed evaluations.

What were the results?
86% of the students “strongly agreed” that they met the course objectives. Preceptors “strongly agreed” (52%) or agreed (46%) that students met the course objectives. At the 8 month skill retention evaluation, preceptors assigned 54% of the students a rating of “strongly agree” and 37% a rating of “agree.”   It is important to note that only 65 of the 195 students were randomly assigned to the dyspnea station for this retention evaluation. 95% of the students felt that the overall ultrasound course improved their understanding of anatomy.

What are the implications of these findings?
First year medical students can learn ultrasound skills, and the students perceive that this technology improves their anatomy knowledge. Clerkship directors may need to find opportunities for these students to continue to build their tech skills during the clinical years.   Also, faculty need to consider how these ultrasound skills will fit in with traditional physical exam skills practice and teaching.

Editor’s note: Mastering technical skills is a very rewarding experience for everyone, especially students just embarking on their medical careers. This model might be applied to the teaching and mastery of other skills that are useful in training and practice. (RR)

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