College of Allied Health Professions

Celebrating #PAWeek: The future of ultrasound in PA education

Recent UNMC PA ultrasound workshop in the simulation lab.

More from our Physician Assistant (PA) students, in celebration of National PA Week:

Ultrasound is a medical tool that uses high frequency sound waves to provide real-time images to the provider. It is a technique used in the treatment and diagnosis of several conditions because it is able to give health care professionals insight into problems with organs, vessels, and tissues without making any incisions. Furthermore, this imaging modality does not use radiation, so it is safe for basically every population.

The traditional association that people have with ultrasound is pregnancy, in which mothers are given their first view of their fetuses, but ultrasounds may be ordered in response to pain, swelling, or other symptoms that require an internal view of organs. Additionally, ultrasounds can be used in order to guide a provider’s movements during certain medical procedures.

This is a means of imaging that has drastically shaped the field of medicine, especially with relation to emergency medicine. According to Michalke 2012, the institutions utilizing emergency ultrasound screenings have reported faster diagnosis times that have assisted in triaging and treating potentially life-threatening emergencies. It has decreased the average length of stay in emergency departments, and ultimately, it has saved institutions ample dollars. It is a portable, and cost effective machine that should be used whenever applicable.

It is now becoming a critical staple in several fields of medicine, and it is of the utmost importance that PAs keep up with the demands and developments within the medical field. Furthermore, it has been shown to improve the quality of care patients receive, which is a priority of the PA profession. The integration of utilizing ultrasound as a diagnostic tool into PA education has sparked popularity among programs. There is an American Academy of PA’s (AAPA) special interest group called The Society of Point-of-Care Ultrasound (SPOCUS) that is promoting this movement of using ultrasound in patient care. Their goal is to educate people on the advantages of ultrasound in hopes of having all PA education programs with ultrasound in their curricula by 2031.

The UNMC PA Program implemented ultrasound into the curriculum last academic year. As rigorous as the curriculum is, their hope is that this will be a beneficial addition to the curriculum for PAs to utilize in their future practice.

Said Shaun Horak, interim director of the UNMC PA program, “Furthering the fundamental knowledge of ultrasound by the principle PA faculty along with collaboration from our Diagnostic Medical Sonography department was instrumental to the development of the new curriculum.”

To read more about the rise of ultrasound in healthcare diagnostics or about SPOCUS, follow this link:
https://www.aapa.org/news-central/2018/04/point-care-ultrasound-diagnostic-tool-use-rise/

Michalke, J. A. (2012). An overview of emergency ultrasound in the United States. World Journal of Emergency Medicine, 3(2), 85–90. http://doi.org/10.5847/wjem.j.issn.1920-8642.2012.02.001

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