Seeing Is Believing: Evaluating a Point-of-Care Ultrasound Curriculum for 1st-Year Medical Students

Teach Learn Med. 2017 Jan-Mar;29(1):85-92. doi: 10.1080/10401334.2016.1172012. Epub 2016 May 18.


Problem: Point-of-care ultrasound has been a novel addition to undergraduate medical education at a few medical schools. The impact is not fully understood, and few rigorous assessments of educational outcomes exist. This study assessed the impact of a point-of-care ultrasound curriculum on image acquisition, interpretation, and student and faculty perceptions of the course.

Intervention: All 142 first-year medical students completed a curriculum on ultrasound physics and instrumentation, cardiac, thoracic, and abdominal imaging. A flipped classroom model of preclass tutorials and tests augmenting live, hands-on scanning sessions was incorporated into the physical examination course. Students and faculty completed surveys on impressions of the curriculum, and all students under-went competency assessments with standardized patients.

Context: The curriculum was a mandatory part of the physical examination course and was taught by experienced clinician-sonographers as well as faculty who do not routinely perform sonography in their clinical practice.

Outcome: Students and faculty agreed that the physical examination course was the right time to introduce ultrasound (87% and 80%). Students demonstrated proper use of the ultrasound machine functions (M score = 91.55), and cardiac, thoracic, and abdominal system assessments (M score = 80.35, 79.58, and 71.57, respectively). Students and faculty valued the curriculum, and students demonstrated basic competency in performance and interpretation of ultrasound. Further study is needed to determine how to best incorporate this emerging technology into a robust learning experience for medical students.

Keywords: Medical education; curriculum; physical examination; ultrasound.

MeSH terms

  • Education, Medical*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate
  • Educational Measurement
  • Faculty, Medical / psychology
  • Humans
  • Point-of-Care Systems*
  • Students, Medical*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Ultrasonography*