Development of an ultrasound training curriculum in a limited resource international setting: successes and challenges of ultrasound training in rural Rwanda

Int J Emerg Med. 2008 Sep;1(3):193-6. doi: 10.1007/s12245-008-0053-z. Epub 2008 Sep 25.


Background: Over the last decade, the diffusion of ultrasound technology to nontraditional users has been rapid and far-reaching. Much research and effort has been focused on developing an ultrasound curriculum and training and practice guidelines for these users. The potential for this diagnostic tool is not limited to the developed world and in many respects ultrasound is adaptable to limited resource international settings. However, needs-based curriculum development, training guidelines, impact on resource utilization, and sustainability are not well studied in the developing world setting.

Aims: We review one method of introducing applicable curriculum, training local providers, and sustaining a comprehensive ultrasound program.

Methods: Two rural Rwandan hospitals affiliated with a US nongovernmental organization participated in a pilot ultrasound training program. Prior to introduction of ultrasound, local physicians completed a survey to determine the perceived importance of various ultrasound scan types. Hospital records were also reviewed to determine disease and presenting complaint prevalence as part of an initial needs assessment and to define our curriculum. We hypothesized certain studies would be more utilized and have a greater impact given available treatment resources.

Results: We review here the choice of curriculum, the training plan, helpful equipment specifications, and implementation of ongoing measures of quality assessment and sustainability. Our 9-week lecture and practice-based ultrasound curriculum included obstetrics, abdominal, renal, hepatobiliary, cardiac, pleural, vascular, and procedural ultrasound.

Conclusions: While ultrasound as a diagnostic modality for resource-poor parts of the world has generated interest for years, recent advances in technology have brought ultrasound again to the forefront as a sustainable and high impact technology for resource-poor developing world nations. From our experience in rural Rwanda, we conclude that ultrasound remains helpful in patient care and the diagnostic impact is enhanced by choosing the correct applications to implement. We also conclude that ultrasound is a teachable skill, with a several week intensive training period involving hands-on practice skills and plans for long-term learning and have begun a second phase of evaluating knowledge retention for this introductory program.