Growing a POCUS Program in a Large Academic Institution: a guide and some lessons learned

Point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) has quickly become an area of interest within medical education. As of 2020, a total of 57% of medical schools have incorporated POCUS training within their curricula.1 Integration of ultrasound into undergraduate medical education (UME) has been shown to help students learn anatomy, physiology, and pathology in a more effective and dynamic way.2

Indiana University School of Medicine (IUSM), which has more than 1400 medical students spread across 9 campuses throughout the state, began the process of implementing a longitudinal UME POCUS curriculum in 2018. Their journey is outlined below—for a more detailed review, see Russell et al.2

Step 1:  Create a POCUS committee.  A POCUS committee was created to identify and coordinate with key stakeholders throughout the institution. This committee was composed of a program manager, student representatives, and faculty from the departments of radiology and emergency medicine. Under the direction of the Executive Associate Dean for Educational Affairs, the committee worked with the regional deans, course directors, key educators, and sponsors to identify space within the existing curriculum for POCUS.
Lesson learned: Engagement at multiple levels was key to the simultaneous integration of the curriculum across all campuses and ensuring an equitable learning experience for all.

Step 2. Consider physical space and POCUS equipment. With many learners and multiple sites, the decision was made to use handheld ultrasound devices. While imaging parameters from these devices may be suboptimal at times, decreased cost and increased portability compared to cart-based ultrasound systems proved advantageous. A check-out system was created to allow learners to easily borrow the devices for self-driven education.
Lesson learned: Handheld devices allowed for easy to stand-up educational sessions, smaller educational groups, more hands-on time, and overall greater program flexibility.

Step 3. Instructional material and modules. Because of limited classroom time, the didactic portion of the curriculum was delivered asynchronously. The curriculum was divided into a series of 16 modules designed to complement and augment the existing medical school curriculum (Figure 1). The POCUS modules paralleled the curriculum as it advanced from basic science to bedside care (Figure 2). Modules were divided into diagnostic, procedural, and symptom-based categories.
Lesson learned: Take advantage of online, self-paced learning modules. Completing modules prior to hands-on instruction minimized classroom time and maximized scanning opportunity.

Figure 1. The 16 learning modules, included in the IUSM POCUS program, divided categorically (originally published in Ultrasound J2).
Figure 2. An approach to structuring a curriculum and progressively building upon concepts throughout the UME curriculum.

Step 4. Phased implementation. POCUS was initially integrated into anatomy and targeted clerkships. These areas were ideal starting points as they had existing POCUS champions and already had some POCUS elements (obstetrics, emergency medicine, etc).
Lesson learned: Identify and leverage existing POCUS opportunities, then expand.

Step 5. Development of an ultrasound learning website. A POCUS website was created using an institutional learning management system (LMS) where all relevant information was stored. This also allowed for easy and rapid dissemination of course materials such as modules, lab facilitator guides, equipment check-out procedures, open lab times, and consent forms.
Lesson learned: Keep critical information centralized for quick access and easy updates.

Step 6. Interprofessional collaboration. Having an adequate number of proctors was a barrier to implementing the hands-on elements of the curriculum. The team increased its number of available instructors by using a train-the-trainer approach for non-POCUS-trained faculty.3  The pool of available instructors expanded to include senior sonography students, senior medical students who had previously completed an elective in POCUS, residents (emergency medicine, family medicine, and radiology), ultrasound fellows, as well as POCUS-trained faculty.
Lesson learned: Interdepartmental and interprofessional collaboration multiplies your efforts and reduces the workload.

Step 7. Continue to build upon the foundation. The team recently launched a combined graduate medical education POCUS curriculum that started with 3 targeted residency programs and will soon include more than 10 residency and fellowship programs for the upcoming academic year. The experience gained and the connections made in building the UME curriculum have made this effort within the graduate medical education (GME) realm equally successful.
Lesson learned: The success of the UME program was dependent upon effective collaboration, support from executive leadership, and strong student interest in learning POCUS.


  1. Russell FM, Zakeri B, Herbert A, et al. The state of point-of-care ultrasound training in undergraduate medical education: findings from a national survey. Acad Med 2021 Nov 16. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000004512.
  1. Russell FM, Herbert A, Ferre RM, et al. Development and implementation of a point of care ultrasound curriculum at a multi-site institution. Ultrasound J 2021; 13:9. doi: 10.1186/s13089-021-00214-w.
  1. Russell FM, Herbert A, Zakeri B, et al. Training the trainer: faculty from across multiple specialties show improved confidence, knowledge and skill in point of care ultrasound after a short intervention. Cureus 2020; 12:e11821.

Daniela Lobo, MD, FAAFP, is an Assistant Professor of Family Medicine and POCUS Fellow at Indiana University School of Medicine.
Josh Kaine, MD, is an Emergency Medicine POCUS Fellow at Indiana University School of Medicine and future ultrasound faculty at IUSM.

We invite you to comment below or on Twitter (@IUEM_ultrasound) and share with us what challenges or successes you’ve faced while trying to implement a POCUS curriculum at your institutions, residencies, student clerkships, or electives.

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