Evaluation of a Required Vertical Point-of-Care Ultrasound Curriculum for Undergraduate Medical Students

Cureus. 2022 Oct 6;14(10):e30002. doi: 10.7759/cureus.30002. eCollection 2022 Oct.


Introduction Point-of-care ultrasound training beginning in undergraduate medical education reinforces anatomy and physical examination skills and enhances clinical care. Implementation in an overcrowded curriculum requires strategic planning to overcome barriers including lack of faculty and equipment. Using Kern's six-step model as a framework, our study question was whether a longitudinal point-of-care ultrasound curriculum threaded through four years of medical school and using a novel combination of evidence-based strategies was feasible, acceptable, and resulted in students achieving ultrasound competencies by graduation. Materials and methods From 2016 to 2020, a required, vertical point-of-care ultrasound curriculum was created across all four undergraduate medical education class years, spearheaded by a single ultrasound fellowship-trained emergency physician with support from two basic anatomy faculty. We utilized strategies including handheld ultrasound devices, near-peer teaching, flipped classroom with virtual learning modules, staggered station rotations, and gamification to optimize student-instructor ratios and faculty time. Surveys and timed objective structured clinical assessments evaluated the curriculum. Results Students from the class of 2022 (n=99, 100% of class) participated in all curricular elements. Senior students answered more survey knowledge questions correctly when compared to pretest questions answered by first- and second-year students. Among 84 students who completed the survey, 75 (89%) rated their ultrasound curriculum as superior or above average. Objective structured clinical examination scores recorded for 53 students (54% of the class) demonstrated students correctly identified a median of 11-18 structures (interquartile range: 9.5-13) using point-of-care ultrasound. Conclusion Evidence-based strategies allowed faculty to develop a four-year required ultrasound curriculum that was highly acceptable by students and improved their knowledge and skills at graduation. At low cost and with few faculty, this program has been sustained for over six years.

Keywords: handheld ultrasound; medical school education; medical school ultrasound curriculum; point-of-care ultrasonography; ultrasound (u/s).