By: Dr Allan Whitehead

I have been interested in introducing POCUS teaching to the medical schools in Victoria for at least

the last half dozen years. Having the opportunity to speak with David Bahner from Ohio State

University and Chris Fox from University of California Irvine and witnessing the enthusiasm of their

medical students who have been given the opportunity to learn POCUS within their medical school

curriculum, just impressed on me on where we need to be with POCUS in our medical schools.

The article published by Nicholas et al shows the rapid uptake of POCUS within the curriculum in

medical schools in the USA such that it had reached 73% of the 84% of schools who responded in

2019 and this rate had been steadily increasing over the decade so could be expected to have

increased even further by late 2021/early 2022. 79% of medical schools had their own machines for

the purpose of teaching ultrasound. Some medical schools have been given many hand-held POCUS

devices by ultrasound companies as per the photo in the link below (provided courtesy of Ashes



Personal contacts, local experience and anecdotal reports indicate to me that easily less than half of

medical schools in Australasia currently have POCUS teaching within their curriculum and a smaller

number again have dedicated machines. Those that do incorporate POCUS – either into basic

sciences or basic clinical skills or in clinical rotations – are yet to offer integrated POCUS across a 4

year medical school curriculum as the medical schools leading with POCUS are doing in the USA.

I have also attached a powerpoint presentation that was used during a talk I gave recently for the

ASUM Virtual 2021 Conference which includes very insightful survey responses from 146 medical

students mostly from 1 Victorian University who attended one of a series of extra-curricular POCUS

workshops I helped coordinate over a 2 year period prior to COVID appearing. Kind thanks to Chloe

Cheng who was instrumental in making these workshops happen and who constructed, collated and

analysed the post-workshop survey and provided the results which appears in the presentation.

The key take home messages from our local survey were that they overwhelmingly agreed that basic

POCUS skills should be taught in the medical school curriculum as they were relevant to their current

education and future clinical practice. 64% supported teaching POCUS in one of the clinical years,

while 23% preferred teaching in the pre-clinical years. Our extra-curricular free POCUS workshops

were oversubscribed with waiting lists for each workshop. Additionally, since I started to hold the

series of workshops described above with features in the ASUM presentation, I have been

approached by medical students from the other 2 medical schools in Victoria to assist with running

extra-curricular workshops so there is clearly unmet demand from medical students in our state. A

goal for us at EMUGs is to promote POCUS by harnessing student feedback and support as means of

lobbying medical school deans and faculty to recognise the value of making space for POCUS within

their curriculum. A generic integrated curriculum in the Australasian context which is based on a

number of examples from leading institutions in the USA could look like:

Year 1: Basic US physics, knobology, Ultrasound inserted into Anatomy topics with practical

scanning on cadavers, student models in lab sessions and when teaching surface anatomy.

Ultrasound workshops for Physiology – cardiac, vascular, GIT

Year 2: US for pathology of different systems, basic focused US protocols, needle guidance using

ultrasound. During physical examination teaching, US can be added as a complimentary diagnostic


Year 3: Integrated specialty-based hands-on ultrasound experience during clinical rotations on ward

rounds and during weekly teaching sessions, logging POCUS examinations and presenting cases,

running workshops etc Further develop procedural US skills during clinical rotations and with

dedicated workshop/s

Year 4: ED rotation building skills in POCUS indications/acquisition of images/interpretation of

images/medical decision making resulting from performance of POCUS. Learn & utilise core EM

focused scanning protocols. In other clinical rotations, further integrated specialty-based hands-on

US experience during ward rounds, weekly teaching sessions, logging and presenting POCUS cases

and running workshops.

Also in Year 4 an elective in Focused Ultrasound/Point of Care Ultrasound can be offered – typically

based in a critical care department of a hospital such as ED, ICU or CCU, but could also be in General

Medicine or Family Medicine/General Practiced depending on the skills of the supervisor/teaching


If you are interested in joining this interest group within EMUGs on Slack, or you have insights or

useful recent information about what is happening in this space within Australasian medical schools

then please contact me via my email: snowydoogie@ozemail.com.au

Best wishes on your POCUS journey,

Allan Whitehead FACEM CCPU(Otago) CCPU(ASUM)

Emergency Physician, Wonthaggi Hospital, Bass Coast Health, Vic

The Current Status of Ultrasound Education in United States Medical Schools
Download PDF • 265KB

ASUM 2021 Virtual Conference Presentation - A Survey of Medical Students' Attitudes after
Download • 1.32MB


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