Informing the Revolution: A Needs Assessment of Ultrasound Knowledge and Skills Among Graduating Physician Assistant Students

J Physician Assist Educ. 2018 Sep;29(3):173-176. doi: 10.1097/JPA.0000000000000210.


Purpose: We performed a needs assessment to understand how existing physician assistant (PA) program curricula and clinical training affect students' ultrasound knowledge, skills, and competence and prepare students for performing ultrasound techniques in clinical practice.

Methods: Students graduating from a PA program completed a 23-item questionnaire examining their ultrasound training experiences, their self-assessment of competency, and their demographics. Students also completed a 15-item ultrasound knowledge assessment.

Results: Thirty-eight of 39 students (97%) completed the survey. Students received little hands-on ultrasound training, with the most hands-on training being offered during emergency medicine (44.7%), obstetrics and gynecology (42.1%), and inpatient internal medicine (39.5%) rotations. This lack of preparedness was reflected in a mean score of 47.1% (±16.4%) on the ultrasound knowledge assessment. Most students (84.2%) indicated that the ultrasound instruction they received during clinical rotations was insufficient to prepare them for clinical practice, and 84.2% desired a formal ultrasound training program in the PA program curriculum.

Conclusions: Existing PA program curricula are insufficient for developing critical skills related to ultrasonography.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Clinical Competence / standards
  • Curriculum
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Needs Assessment
  • Physician Assistants / education*
  • Self-Assessment
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Ultrasonography*