Prospective Analysis of Short- and Mid-term Knowledge Retention after a Brief Ultrasound Course for Undergraduate Medical Students

Carlos Augusto M. Menegozzo Priscila Gadelho Cazolari Fernando da Costa Ferreira Novo Ramiro Colleoni Edivaldo Massazo Utiyama About the authors

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

The benefits of implementing point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) in the emergency department are well established. Ideally, physicians should be taught POCUS during medical school. Several different courses have been designed for that purpose and have yielded good results. However, medical students need specifically designed courses that address the main objectives of knowledge acquisition and retention. Despite that, there is limited evidence to support knowledge retention, especially in the mid-term. The purpose of this study is to evaluate short- and mid-term knowledge retention after a student-aimed ultrasound course.

METHODS:

Medical students participating in a medical student trauma symposium (SIMPALT) in 2017 were included. Their profiles and baseline ultrasound knowledge were assessed by a precourse questionnaire (PRT). The same questionnaire was used one week (1POT) and three months (3POT) after the course.

RESULTS:

Most of the participants were 1st- to 4th- year medical students. None had prior ultrasound knowledge. They reported costs as the major barrier (65%) to enrollment in an ultrasound course. A comparison between the PRT and 1POT results showed a statistically significant difference (p<0.02), while no difference was found between 1POT and 3POT (p>0.09).

CONCLUSION:

Our findings support the use of a tailored ultrasound course for medical students. Knowledge acquisition and mid-term retention may be achieved by this specific population.

Medical Education; Medical Student; Ultrasonography; Point-of-Care Technology


INTRODUCTION

Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) is becoming an integral part of the assessment of critical care patients. It is considered “the new stethoscope” by some authors (11. Wittenberg M. Will ultrasound scanners replace the stethoscope? BMJ. 2014;348:g3463. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g3463
https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g3463...
,22. Fakoya FA, du Plessis M, Gbenimacho IB. Ultrasound and stethoscope as tools in medical education and practice: considerations for the archives. Adv Med Educ Pract. 2016;7:381-7. https://doi.org/10.2147/AMEP.S99740.
https://doi.org/10.2147/AMEP.S99740...
) and is a useful tool for the evaluation of abdominal pain, intracranial hypertension, pleuropulmonary diseases, shock, and airway control (33. Lindelius A, Törngren S, Nilsson L, Pettersson H, Adami J. Randomized clinical trial of bedside ultrasound among patients with abdominal pain in the emergency department: impact on patient satisfaction and health care consumption. Scand J Trauma Resusc Emerg Med. 2009;17:60. https://doi.org/10.1186/1757-7241-17-60
https://doi.org/10.1186/1757-7241-17-60...
,44. Arntfield RT, Millington SJ. Point of care cardiac ultrasound applications in the emergency department and intensive care unit-a review. Curr Cardiol Rev. 2012;8(2):98-108. https://doi.org/10.2174/157340312801784952.
https://doi.org/10.2174/1573403128017849...
).

As with any technology with widely expanding applications, it is imperative that physicians be well trained in POCUS. Moreover, there is an ongoing debate regarding whether training in POCUS should be offered to medical students. FAST (Focused Assessment with Sonography for Trauma) is one of the simplest applications of POCUS. Free fluid identification is straightforward due to the contrast with the adjacent structures and does not depend on artifact interpretation (55. Davis JJ, Wessner CE, Potts J, Au AK, Pohl CA, Fields JM. Ultrasonography in Undergraduate Medical Education: A Systematic Review. J Ultrasound Med. 2018;37(11):2667-79. https://doi.org/10.1002/jum.14628.
https://doi.org/10.1002/jum.14628...
). Hence, FAST is a good example to present to medical students as the first step in ultrasound training.

Various POCUS courses are reported in the literature (66. Montoya J, Stawicki SP, Evans DC, Bahner DP, Sparks S, Sharpe RP, et al. From FAST to E-FAST: an overview of the evolution of ultrasound-based traumatic injury assessment. Eur J Trauma Emerg Surg. 2016;42(2):119-26. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00068-015-0512-1.
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00068-015-0512-...

7. Mandavia DP, Aragona J, Chan L, Chan D, Henderson SO. Ultrasound training for emergency physicians - a prospective study. Acad Emerg Med. 2000;7(9):1008-14. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1553-2712.2000.tb02092.x.
https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1553-2712.2000...

8. Zago M, Martinez Casas I, Pereira J, Mariani D, Silva AR, Casamassima A, et al. Tailored ultrasound learning for acute care surgeons: a review of the MUSEC (Modular UltraSound ESTES Course) project. Eur J Trauma Emerg Surg. 2016;42(2):161-8. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00068-016-0651-z.
https://doi.org/10.1007/s00068-016-0651-...

9. Cartier RA 3rd, Skinner C, Laselle B. Perceived effectiveness of teaching methods for point of care ultrasound. J Emerg Med. 2014;47(1):86-91. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jemermed.2014.01.027.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jemermed.2014....

10. Walcher F, Kirschning T, Muller MP, Byhahn C, Stier M, Russeler M, et al. Accuracy of prehospital focused abdominal sonography for trauma after a 1-day hands-on training course. Emerg Med J. 2010;27(5):345-9. https://doi.org/10.1136/emj.2008.059626.
https://doi.org/10.1136/emj.2008.059626...
-1111. Halverson AL, Darosa DA, Borgstrom DC, Caropreso PR, Hughes TG, Hoyt DB, et al. Evaluation of a blended learning surgical skills course for rural surgeons. Am J Surg. 2014;208(1):136-42. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjsurg.2013.12.039.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjsurg.2013.1...
), some of which are aimed at medical students (1212. Abbasi S, Farsi D, Hafezimoghadam P, Fathi M, Zare M. Accuracy of emergency physician-performed ultrasound in detecting traumatic pneumothorax after a 2-h training course. Eur J Emerg Med. 2013;20(3):173-7. https://doi.org/10.1097/MEJ.0b013e328356f754.
https://doi.org/10.1097/MEJ.0b013e328356...

13. Wong I, Jayatilleke T, Kendall R, Atkinson P. Feasibility of a focused ultrasound training programme for medical undergraduate students. Clin Teach. 2011;8(1):3-7. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1743-498X.2010.00416.x.
https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1743-498X.2010...

14. Kondrashov P, Johnson JC, Boehm K, Rice D, Kondrashova T. Impact of the clinical ultrasound elective course on retention of anatomical knowledge by second-year medical students in preparation for board exams. Clin Anat. 2015;28(2):156-63. https://doi.org/10.1002/ca.22494.
https://doi.org/10.1002/ca.22494...

15. Bell FE 3rd, Wilson LB, Hoppmann RA. Using ultrasound to teach medical students cardiac physiology. Adv Physiol Educ. 2015;39(4):392-6. https://doi.org/10.1152/advan.00123.2015.
https://doi.org/10.1152/advan.00123.2015...

16. Florescu CC, Mullen JA, Nguyen VM, Sanders BE, Vu PQ. Evaluating Didactic Methods for Training Medical Students in the Use of Bedside Ultrasound for Clinical Practice at a Faculty of Medicine in Romania. J Ultrasound Med. 2015;34(10):1873-82. https://doi.org/10.7863/ultra.14.09028.
https://doi.org/10.7863/ultra.14.09028...
-1717. Arger PH, Schultz SM, Sehgal CM, Cary TW, Aronchick J. Teaching medical students diagnostic sonography. J Ultrasound Med. 2005;24(10):1365-9. https://doi.org/10.7863/jum.2005.24.10.1365.
https://doi.org/10.7863/jum.2005.24.10.1...
). However, their use is limited by factors such as duration and financial cost. Most courses assess knowledge acquisition using a questionnaire administered shortly after course completion. However, there is little evidence to support knowledge retention in the mid-term. This gap may undermine the interpretation of course efficacy and contribute to a lower enrollment rate.

An ideal tailored course for medical students should be short and inexpensive while resulting in satisfactory knowledge retention. Hence, the present study aims to evaluate the effects of a brief, student-tailored ultrasound course by focusing on short- and mid-term knowledge retention.

METHODS

This is a nonrandomized prospective study that included participants who enrolled in the skills stations at a medical student trauma symposium (SIMPALT) in 2017. The ultrasound course was one of the four skills stations of the symposium. The students were separated into four groups that rotated through the stations every 50 minutes.

The ultrasound course encompassed basic theoretical explanations of ultrasound physics, transducer choice, FAST systematization, E-FAST windows, and image interpretation. The theoretical session was followed by practical training in performing a FAST exam of a healthy volunteer. The course format was elaborated by one of the authors (CAMM). Every student received two questionnaires before the course. The first was intended to gather participants’ profile information and to determine what they considered barriers to enrolling in ultrasound courses. The second questionnaire (PRT) was composed of 8 multiple-choice theoretical questions, each of which had a unique correct answer, with the aim of assessing the students’ baseline knowledge. We excluded participants who did not answer both questionnaires from further evaluation.

Every student received the same questions one week (1POT) and three months (3POT) postcourse. Responses were compared between PRT and 1POT to evaluate knowledge acquisition and between 1POT and 3POT to evaluate knowledge retention in the mid-term. Students were also asked to grade the overall quality of the activity on a scale of 1 to 10.

We performed chi-square and Fisher’s exact tests using STATA software (STATACorp. 2007. Stata Statistical Software: Release 10.0. College Station, Texas: Stata Corporation) to compare the responses. The confidence interval was 95%, and p-values <0.05 were considered statistically significant.

RESULTS

This study was approved by the Institutional Ethics Committee and is reported according to the STROBE guidelines. Thirty-seven students answered the first two questionnaires and were eligible for inclusion. Table 1 presents the profile information of the included students and their responses regarding the main barriers to enrollment in an ultrasound course. The response rates for 1POT and 3POT were 49% and 32%, respectively. None of the students had participated in previous ultrasound courses. The mean course satisfaction score was 9.03 out of 10.

Table 1
Profile of the participants according to their responses to one of the precourse questionnaires (n=37).

A comparison of the PRT and 1POT responses showed overall knowledge acquisition, which was statistically significant for 6 of the 8 questions (Table 2). A comparison between 1POT and 3POT revealed no significant difference despite a mild decrease in correct answers (Table 3). This finding was correlated with knowledge retention in the mid-term (3 months).

Table 2
Comparison of correct responses at PRT and 1POT.

DISCUSSION

The results of this study support the effectiveness and feasibility of a brief student-tailored ultrasound course. Comparisons of the answers to the questionnaires show acquisition and mid-term retention of knowledge.

The current study confirmed previous observations of the perceived barriers to ultrasound course enrollment. Financial investments, routine curricular activities, course location and time spent on the course were the main barriers. This brief course was also low-cost (less than US$ 30), included in symposium’s main scientific program, and performed at the same site. Hence, the main barriers were overcome. Some studies evaluate factors associated with limited incorporation of POCUS. One of the most important factors is the lack of training (1818. Gogalniceanu P, Sheena Y, Kashef E, Purkayastha S, Darzi A, Paraskeva P. Is basic emergency ultrasound training feasible as part of standard undergraduate medical education? J Surg Educ. 2010;67(3):152-6. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsurg.2010.02.008.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsurg.2010.02....
,1919. von Elm E, Altman DG, Egger M, Pocock SJ, Gøtzsche PC, Vandenbroucke JP, et al. The Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) Statement: guidelines for reporting observational studies. Int J Surg. 2014;12(12):1495-9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijsu.2014.07.013.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijsu.2014.07.0...
). However, evidence regarding a specific analysis of barriers to course enrollment is lacking. This unexplored subject may undermine the development of newer educational platforms (2020. Shah S, Bellows BA, Adedipe AA, Totten JE, Backlund BH, Sajed D. Perceived barriers in the use of ultrasound in developing countries. Crit Ultrasound J. 2015;7(1):28. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13089-015-0028-2
https://doi.org/10.1186/s13089-015-0028-...
). Our study provides potentially useful results to enhance students’ participation in courses.

The optimal time to introduce POCUS concepts during medical education is still a matter of debate. The American Academy of Emergency Medicine advocates offering POCUS training to medical students (22. Fakoya FA, du Plessis M, Gbenimacho IB. Ultrasound and stethoscope as tools in medical education and practice: considerations for the archives. Adv Med Educ Pract. 2016;7:381-7. https://doi.org/10.2147/AMEP.S99740.
https://doi.org/10.2147/AMEP.S99740...
,2121. Eisen LA, Leung S, Gallagher AE, Kvetan V. Barriers to ultrasound training in critical care medicine fellowships: a survey of program directors. Crit Care Med. 2010;38(10):1978-83. https://doi.org/10.1097/CCM.0b013e3181eeda53.
https://doi.org/10.1097/CCM.0b013e3181ee...
,2222. Soucy ZP, Mills LD. American Academy of Emergency Medicine Position Statement: Ultrasound Should Be Integrated into Undergraduate Medical Education Curriculum. J Emerg Med. 2015;49(1):89-90. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jemermed.2014.12.092.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jemermed.2014....
). In fact, the incorporation of ultrasonography is well accepted among students who recognize various applications of that technology (1515. Bell FE 3rd, Wilson LB, Hoppmann RA. Using ultrasound to teach medical students cardiac physiology. Adv Physiol Educ. 2015;39(4):392-6. https://doi.org/10.1152/advan.00123.2015.
https://doi.org/10.1152/advan.00123.2015...
,2323. Menegozzo CAM, Utiyama EM. Getting out of the comfort zone with point-of-care ultrasound. Am J Surg. 2019;217(1):190-1. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjsurg.2018.02.006.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjsurg.2018.0...
). Brunner et al. (2424. Brunner M, Moeslinger T, Spieckermann PG. Echocardiography for teaching cardiac physiology in practical student courses. Am J Physiol. 1995;268(6 Pt 3):S2-9. https://doi.org/10.1152/advances.1995.268.6.S2.
https://doi.org/10.1152/advances.1995.26...
) in 1995, debated the introduction of ultrasound concepts to medical students by using echocardiography as an adjunct to the cardiac physiology course. The author demonstrated that echocardiography received the best rating among several topics of the course. This success may be related to a unique ability of ultrasound: increased integration of other subjects, such as anatomy, physiology, radiology, and surgery. FAST is an excellent example of such integration and is easily reproducible.

Studies have shown that medical students are capable of using ultrasound. In a study by Gogalniceanu et al., UK medical students demonstrated 88% accuracy in identifying free peritoneal fluid after a 5-hour POCUS course (1818. Gogalniceanu P, Sheena Y, Kashef E, Purkayastha S, Darzi A, Paraskeva P. Is basic emergency ultrasound training feasible as part of standard undergraduate medical education? J Surg Educ. 2010;67(3):152-6. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsurg.2010.02.008.
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsurg.2010.02....
). Additionally, participants reported overall improvement of their knowledge regarding radiological anatomy and interest in further ultrasound training. They stressed the need to have this training widely available during medical school. Indeed, there are several benefits associated with such curriculum modifications. Barriers such as costs and the search for an adequate course would likely disappear. Additionally, ultrasound education for medical students would be homogeneous and standardized.

Several studies have analyzed knowledge acquisition by medical students after an ultrasound course. However, as noted in Table 4, none evaluated its retention in the mid- or long-term (2020. Shah S, Bellows BA, Adedipe AA, Totten JE, Backlund BH, Sajed D. Perceived barriers in the use of ultrasound in developing countries. Crit Ultrasound J. 2015;7(1):28. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13089-015-0028-2
https://doi.org/10.1186/s13089-015-0028-...
). Our results highlight the mid-term efficacy of a short and straightforward ultrasound course. Another interesting finding of our study is that the majority of the participants were enrolled in the preclinical stages of medical education. This result supports the ability of students in the early phases of medical school to acquire and retain knowledge.

Table 3
Comparison of correct responses at 1POT and 3POT.

Table 4
Studies analyzing the impact of an ultrasound course on the knowledge of medical students.

Limitations

The evaluation of knowledge based on theoretical questions, and no practical evaluation was performed. Hence, we could not assess mid-term knowledge retention in terms of actual performance of the exam. The participants’ response rate decreased during the study, and only 32% completed the 3POT questionnaire. This means that a potential significant difference may not have been detected and that there is a risk of selection bias. Moreover, we could not compare the results to a control group because every student participated in the course. Last, we did not determine whether the students had gathered information from other sources during the 3-month interval between the two questionnaires (1POT and 3POT), although this was unlikely.

CONCLUSION

This study makes two main contributions. First, a brief student-tailored ultrasound course results in knowledge acquisition and mid-term retention. Second, we demonstrated that costs, release from routine activities, location, and duration may undermine course enrollment. Factors impacting the dissemination and routine application of POCUS should be systematically assessed. The adoption of structured POCUS courses for medical students depends on a better understanding of the results of such training. We should make efforts to establish effective educational strategies to avoid potential barriers to course enrollment. Further prospective studies evaluating the impact of mid-term knowledge retention on the development of practical skills must be designed.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

We thank Dr. Inês Nishimoto for performing the statistical analysis of the study’s data.

REFERENCES

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    » https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjsurg.2013.12.039
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    » https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1743-498X.2010.00416.x
  • 14
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    » https://doi.org/10.1002/ca.22494
  • 15
    Bell FE 3rd, Wilson LB, Hoppmann RA. Using ultrasound to teach medical students cardiac physiology. Adv Physiol Educ. 2015;39(4):392-6. https://doi.org/10.1152/advan.00123.2015
    » https://doi.org/10.1152/advan.00123.2015
  • 16
    Florescu CC, Mullen JA, Nguyen VM, Sanders BE, Vu PQ. Evaluating Didactic Methods for Training Medical Students in the Use of Bedside Ultrasound for Clinical Practice at a Faculty of Medicine in Romania. J Ultrasound Med. 2015;34(10):1873-82. https://doi.org/10.7863/ultra.14.09028
    » https://doi.org/10.7863/ultra.14.09028
  • 17
    Arger PH, Schultz SM, Sehgal CM, Cary TW, Aronchick J. Teaching medical students diagnostic sonography. J Ultrasound Med. 2005;24(10):1365-9. https://doi.org/10.7863/jum.2005.24.10.1365
    » https://doi.org/10.7863/jum.2005.24.10.1365
  • 18
    Gogalniceanu P, Sheena Y, Kashef E, Purkayastha S, Darzi A, Paraskeva P. Is basic emergency ultrasound training feasible as part of standard undergraduate medical education? J Surg Educ. 2010;67(3):152-6. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsurg.2010.02.008
    » https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsurg.2010.02.008
  • 19
    von Elm E, Altman DG, Egger M, Pocock SJ, Gøtzsche PC, Vandenbroucke JP, et al. The Strengthening the Reporting of Observational Studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) Statement: guidelines for reporting observational studies. Int J Surg. 2014;12(12):1495-9. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijsu.2014.07.013
    » https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijsu.2014.07.013
  • 20
    Shah S, Bellows BA, Adedipe AA, Totten JE, Backlund BH, Sajed D. Perceived barriers in the use of ultrasound in developing countries. Crit Ultrasound J. 2015;7(1):28. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13089-015-0028-2
    » https://doi.org/10.1186/s13089-015-0028-2
  • 21
    Eisen LA, Leung S, Gallagher AE, Kvetan V. Barriers to ultrasound training in critical care medicine fellowships: a survey of program directors. Crit Care Med. 2010;38(10):1978-83. https://doi.org/10.1097/CCM.0b013e3181eeda53
    » https://doi.org/10.1097/CCM.0b013e3181eeda53
  • 22
    Soucy ZP, Mills LD. American Academy of Emergency Medicine Position Statement: Ultrasound Should Be Integrated into Undergraduate Medical Education Curriculum. J Emerg Med. 2015;49(1):89-90. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jemermed.2014.12.092
    » https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jemermed.2014.12.092
  • 23
    Menegozzo CAM, Utiyama EM. Getting out of the comfort zone with point-of-care ultrasound. Am J Surg. 2019;217(1):190-1. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjsurg.2018.02.006
    » https://doi.org/10.1016/j.amjsurg.2018.02.006
  • 24
    Brunner M, Moeslinger T, Spieckermann PG. Echocardiography for teaching cardiac physiology in practical student courses. Am J Physiol. 1995;268(6 Pt 3):S2-9. https://doi.org/10.1152/advances.1995.268.6.S2
    » https://doi.org/10.1152/advances.1995.268.6.S2

Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    16 Sept 2019
  • Date of issue
    2019

History

  • Received
    5 Dec 2018
  • Accepted
    5 June 2019
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