New ultrasound course benefits grad students

In the spring of 2017, the Physician Assistant graduate program at Baldwin Wallace launched a new ultrasound training course designed to teach graduate students the basic concepts and function of ultrasound technology. Now, one year later, the ultrasound training course shows promise for the future of graduate students at Baldwin Wallace.

The ultrasound training course began as a train-the-trainer program where Baldwin Wallace’s assistant professor, Laura Blesse-Hampton, would meet with the head of The Society of Point of Care Ultrasound (SPOCUS), Frank Norman, to learn about basic ultrasound applications. SPOCUS is designed to educate educators on the use of ultrasound.

“I had absolutely no ultrasound training when I went through my PA program,” said Professor Laura Blesse-Hampton, who teaches the ultrasound training course at Baldwin Wallace. “[Norman] taught me how to do ultrasound in a way to teach it to my students.”

Norman gave Blesse-Hampton a new curriculum about a topic, where she would spend time learning about the topic for a couple of weeks before proceeding to the next subject. Once she mastered the information, she was able to begin teaching the course.

Faculty from the Physician Assistant department collaborated to implement the ultrasound training course, because ultrasound usage is becoming more prevalent throughout the
medical field.

Blesse-Hampton said that previously, the use of diagnostic imaging, such as x-rays, had been a primary source of gathering medical information. But such diagnostic imaging leads to radiation exposure. Ultrasounds do not use any radiation and allow for immediate results that can even be obtained at a patient’s bedside.

Developing ultrasound skill allows for a more versatile employee, and training students now gives students the opportunity to cultivate abilities and establish an upper hand in the medical field.

The ultrasound training course was designed “to get our students very familiar with the use of ultrasound and also get them to be able to, when they are on rotations as well as when they graduate, advocate for that ultrasound use,” said Blesse-Hampton.

Implementing the ultrasound training course into the Physician Assistant program gives students a chance to have more success in their future occupations.

“Ultrasound has become more of a cutting-edge tool to use in various settings,” said Jared Pennington, the director of the Physician Assistant program. “With that skill set, if they have had some formal training in ultrasound they will be able to apply that in any area that they work,” said Pennington.

The graduate program is still with its first students who have taken the course, although students who are in their clinical year and have had ultrasound experience have “had preceptors who are a lot more likely to let [students] do ultrasound,” said Blesse-Hampton.

Although the Physician Assistant program isn’t primarily focused on ultrasound usage, the course has given students the ability to take what they have learned and implement it into their experiences.

As the medical field continues to grow, new technology and medical advances will constantly alter preparation for students. It is imperative that programs constantly adapt to these new medical advances to offer the best training to their students’ future success. Doing so allows programs, much like Baldwin Wallace’s, to generate versatile employees.