Point-of-Care Ultrasonography in MN

Dennis Peterson, MD, is co-associate program director at the University of Minnesota/CentraCare St. Cloud Family Medicine Residency. He currently co-chairs the University of Minnesota family medicine point-of-care ultrasonography (POCUS) training program and has also developed St. Cloud residency’s POCUS training curriculum. In this blog post, Peterson shares about the increased popularity of POCUS and training residents, students and practicing physicians and invites you to take a survey to determine POCUS training interests and needs in Minnesota.

In 2013, I left a full spectrum practice in Willmar, Minnesota, to join the faculty of the University of Minnesota/CentraCare St. Cloud Family Medicine Residency. At that time, bedside point-of-care ultrasonography (POCUS) use was very limited in the ER, and no formal training was available.

POCUS is an extension of the physical exam that aids clinical decision-making and can reduce delays in care and treatment. It can aid in diagnosis, just like an EKG or X-ray. POCUS can also reduce the burden on radiology or emergency departments, freeing up resources and improving access for those who truly need urgent or more formal exams.

Point-of-care ultrasonography (POCUS) protocols usually answer a specific question (Table 1) that helps guide treatment and can be performed after a relatively brief training period (Am Fam Physician. 2018 Aug 15;98(4):200-202.).

During these past nine years, we have developed a training curriculum in POCUS for residents and faculty, and have integrated (POCUS) into our inpatient and outpatient resident training, in conjunction with the University of Minnesota Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. In addition, various training curricula have also been circulating throughout medical schools and residency programs. Medical schools are incorporating the use of ultrasonography into their basic education; and, recently, the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) has instructed residency training programs to incorporate POCUS into training.

POCUS popularity has increased due to improved technology, lower costs and the increased portability of new handheld machines. The AAFP has published a residency curriculum guideline for POCUS and has a Point-of-Care Ultrasound Member Interest Group of more than 800 family physicians across the country who are using POCUS in a variety of practice settings.

The University of Minnesota has been actively training family medicine faculty and residents [in POCUS] for the past five years. We utilize workshops which combine didactic training followed by live model scanning. Most of these workshops will combine trained faculty with students/residents and other faculty in small group formats, guiding the live scanning techniques. Evaluations of these sessions consistently show that this format has an excellent learning curve. Follow up feedback has shown that continued use of POCUS is enhanced by availability of ultrasonography equipment, the support of teaching faculty and peers and motivation to continue active learning.

So, my question is: How can we advance the education of practicing Minnesota family physicians who have interest in learning POCUS skills?

Several years ago, we held a POCUS workshop at the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians (MAFP) Spring Refresher continuing medical education conference. It was well attended, and many expressed interest in this as a continuing workshop. COVID restrictions have hampered this option, but as we investigate the future, I want to ask, “what is needed now?”

If you are a physician/provider, would you please complete this survey to help determine interest and need in POCUS training in Minnesota?

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