Development and evaluation of methodologies for teaching focused cardiac ultrasound skills to medical students

J Am Soc Echocardiogr. 2014 Mar;27(3):302-9. doi: 10.1016/j.echo.2013.12.006. Epub 2014 Jan 13.


Background: Handheld ultrasound is emerging as an important tool for point-of-care cardiac assessment. Although cardiac ultrasound skills are traditionally introduced during postgraduate training, the optimal time and methodology to initiate training in focused cardiac ultrasound (FCU) are unknown. The objective of this study was to develop and evaluate a novel curriculum for training medical students in the use of FCU.

Methods: The study was conducted in two phases. In the first phase, 12 first-year medical students underwent FCU training over an 8-week period. In the second phase, 45 third-year medical students were randomized to one of three educational programs. Program 1 consisted of a lecture-based approach with scan training by a sonographer. Program 2 coupled electronic education modules with sonographer scan training. Program 3 was fully self-directed, combining electronic modules with scan training on a high-fidelity ultrasound simulator. Image interpretation skills and scanning technique were evaluated after each program.

Results: First-year medical students were able to modestly improve interpretation ability and acquire limited scanning skills. Third-year medical students exhibited similar improvement in mean examination score for image interpretation whether a lecture-based program or electronic modules was used. Students in the self-directed group using an ultrasound simulator had significantly lower mean quality scores than students taught by sonographers.

Conclusions: Third-year medical students were able to acquire FCU image acquisition and interpretation skills after a novel training program. Self-directed electronic modules are effective for teaching introductory FCU interpretation skills, while expert-guided training is important for developing scanning technique.

Keywords: Electronic learning; Handheld ultrasound; Medical education; Simulation.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cardiology / education*
  • Clinical Competence
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction / methods*
  • Curriculum*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / organization & administration*
  • Educational Measurement / methods
  • Ontario
  • Point-of-Care Systems
  • Program Development
  • Program Evaluation
  • Radiology / education*
  • Schools, Medical / organization & administration
  • Ultrasonography*