As the Program Director of a Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)-accredited General sonography program, I have a request for all OB/GYN practices. Please open your practice to accept sonography students. The future of the OB sonographer depends upon it.
If schools cannot provide graduates with good entry-level OB skills, there will not be enough sonographers to fill the OB sonography positions within private practices and this includes the MFM specialties.
Student rotations are down because the sonographers are too busy to allow students to scan. I have been given the following reasons why they are too busy:
- Patients are scheduled every 30 minutes all day.
- Work-ins are expected to be added daily into the already booked schedule
- It is not uncommon for a single sonographer to perform 15–20 patients per day.
- There are usually no breaks except for lunch, maybe.
- Some practices have more than one sonographer but each performs the same amount of studies so there is no relief person to help out.
This type of scheduling (over-scheduling) sets up a whole new set of questions.
- How long can one sonographer sustain such a schedule without suffering from burn-out and choose to leave employment?
- How long can one sonographer sustain such a schedule without suffering from repetitive stress injuries that will force their retirement?
- If sonographers are having to rush through studies to get all of the patients through, what are they missing?
- What is the satisfaction level of the patient who feels they are on an assembly line when getting their sonogram? I do believe this is one reason many “peek-a-boo -see your baby” businesses are flourishing; OB patients want to experience fetal bonding with their families, time for which the private practice schedules do not allow. (“The AIUM advocates the responsible use of diagnostic ultrasound and strongly discourages the non-medical use of ultrasound for entertainment purposes.” See The Issue with Keepsake Ultrasounds for more information.)
Although there is value in observation, which the students may be allowed to do, nothing can replace a hands-on experience with supervision and instruction. And, yes, labs help, but the accrediting bodies require our students to scan patients not models.
For at least 2 decades, educators have struggled to find OB clinical sites that would allow their students to gain the scanning skills needed to complete their clinical competency exams, which are required for graduation. With no resolution in sight, even the Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (JRC-DMS) and CAAHEP have recognized that some General accredited programs could not meet all the standards and, therefore, have now provided us a way to separate out the specialties. This allows for the deletion of the OB specialty from their accredited programs. This is a way for educators to deal with the problem of not being able to gain access to 2nd- and 3rd-trimester OB patients for their students, but it will ultimately be bad news for the OB community in general.
I believe the sonography community is an intelligent and creative group. We can find ways to integrate students into a busy environment. I actually have some clinical sites that do a very good job of it. I encourage you to think outside of the box and let’s get creative so that the schools will be able to provide qualified graduates when they are needed. If we don’t, we will begin seeing private OB “cross-training” on the job, again.
Is that what we really want? Comments, opinions, rebuttals, suggestions are encouraged and I look forward to reading them all.
Kathy A. Gill, MS, RT, RDMS, is a Program Director of the Institute of Ultrasound Diagnostics in Spanish Fort, Alabama. Kathy has been a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer since 1977 and has been involved in sonography education for 30+ years.
Interested in learning more about ultrasound in medical education? Check out the following posts from the Scan: