First of all, congratulations to all who are picking up a probe and working to add it to their diagnostic and therapeutic armamentarium. It will serve you – but more importantly, your patients – for the rest of your career.
I would like to caution you, however, in remembering that this, unlike knowledge, is a skill. More than half the challenge is in image acquisition, and this requires practice. Practice, practice, practice. You can’t just reach for the probe in that one patient during your shift in whom you really want to have an idea of his or her cardiac function or volume status, then try to remember how to do it. That’s a road to early discouragement and worse, never developing the skill or the necessary confidence.
Especially early on, scan everyone you can, including yourself. You make a very patient patient.
If you’re not a fortunate medical student whose school is one of the pioneering ones with an undergraduate programme, take every course you can. Make friends with ultrasound tech and spend some lunch hours watching some of their exams. Pin (4 point restraints preferably) a colleague to a gurney when a machine is available.
Once you can reliably acquire images, start making clinical calls on the extremes: the tiny or the huge IVC, the hyperdynamic and the minimally moving ventricle, etc… and as your skills and experience grow, work your way towards the middle.
The last thing we need, as a bedside sonographer community, is to have the current trainees, which really represent the first generation (as most of the educators out there today are largely self-taught, or at least devised their own unique programs), misuse this amazing tool. We are under scrutiny, as it is a novel application (of an old technology), and cannot afford mistakes, lest roadblocks re-appear.
So practice, practice, practice, and if you’re not sure, get another opinion or another diagnostic modality!
[…] A cautionary tale for budding bedside sonographers… #FOAMed, #FOAMcc (thinkingcriticalcare.com) […]