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POCUS may improve clinical exam skills

December 31, 2014

teacher probeThere is a legitimate concern that with newer technologies physicians are failing to develop, or are losing their clinical exam skills.  Let’s face it, in the era of CTs and MRIs the quality of many medical practitioner’s neurological exam skills have become sketchy.  Not you of course!  But I am sure you know a few other docs…

So it is reasonable to ask if we are going to introduce POCUS to the medical undergraduate curriculum will this undermine traditional clinical exam skill development?

It has been my anecdotal experience as both a learner and educator that bedside ultrasound improves anatomic knowledge tremendously and augments the understanding of many physiologic processes.  I like to think it is because, unlike many other technologies, we use POCUS to assist with our clinical exam rather than supplant it.  What makes this tool so powerful is the ability to integrate it real-time with all the other data points generated as we examine our patients.

It’s nice to see a paper suggesting that medical students demonstrate improved performance on observed standardized clinical exams when they have received training in POCUS.

Effects of ultrasound implementation on physical examination learning and teaching during the first year of medical education

First year medical students did a better job assessing vitals such as blood pressure, performed better abdominal exams, and had an improved professionalism.  (POCUS does force us to spend more hands-on time with our patients so this makes some sense.)

What was equally impressive about this study was the incorporation of POCUS training into the undergraduate curriculum using very limited resources.  One POCUS expert, 8 trainees, and 4 machines for 163 medical students!

My hat is off to all those daring educational pioneers bringing POCUS to the undergraduate curriculum.  It’s a lot of work.  There’s lots of obstacles, logistic and political.  In the end I think it is going to be better for our patients and better for us as physicians.  Looking forward to more studies backing this up!

Happy New Year,




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