Happy New Year!

Marti L. McCullough, BS, MBA, RDCS, FASE
Have you chosen a New Year’s resolution yet? Well, if you are not currently accepting students as a clinical site for hands-on experience, I challenge you to create a relationship with an accredited school and make it happen. Fortunately, over the years we at Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center have formed relationships with multiple schools, both within and outside of Texas. And although we prefer accredited schools, we have made a few exceptions for which there were never any regrets. In fact, the entire department can attest to the fact that the reward for accepting students far outweighs any minor barriers or issues.

Why be a Clinical Site?

Over the years, I have heard numerous reasons from other facilities and physicians’ offices regarding their reasons for not accepting students. The justifications typically include “not enough time”, “too busy,” “too small” and even “not a good teacher.” Yet, if the student is from a solid school, he or she can often be an asset for a busy laboratory regardless of the size. With minimal orientation, students can assist with patient flow, history assessment and vital signs. With proper mentoring and nominal additional time, students can eventually scan on their own, with a final check-off of the images by a senior sonographer prior to patient exit.

Students bring fresh outlooks on subjects that may seem commonplace to more tenured staff. The result can be revitalizing, as students bring questions that lead to the discussions necessary to keep a profession exciting. Additionally, students can keep the lab current with respect to new concepts, measures and trends, including Doppler tissue, 3D and contrast.

The final reason for hosting students is to provide future sonographers with sound experience, which is essential to gaining employment post-graduation. The pipeline of students can be a benefit internally or externally. Some labs, ours included, host students with the intent of hiring the most gifted. The relationship between the cardiovascular lab and the school is symbiotic, as the lab needs competent staff and the schools need qualified clinical sites.

Clinical Site Etiquette

Jessica L. Murphy BS, RRT-NPS, RDCS, RVT, the program director of diagnostic cardiovascular sonography at Alvin Community College once noted the following key points for creating a successful clinical site, all of which we have incorporated into our daily practice of mentoring students.

  • 1.

    Clinical preceptors must model professional behavior

    • Hand hygiene

    • Professionalism at all times in front of patient

    • Support patient satisfaction

    • Promote teamwork

  • 2.

    Keep students out of office politics (especially if they rotate)

    • Sets a bad example for the students

    • Spreads gossip throughout the medical community and school

    • Office politics are not the students focus

  • 3.

    Allow students to scan whenever possible

    • Always let the patient decide if he or she wants student participation.

    • Scanning a few minutes before or after study can often benefit newer sonographers.

    • Do not leave students alone with patients until they are signed off to perform studies on their own; this does not benefit the patient nor the student.

  • 4.

    Provide a student orientation

    • Define absolute expectations within the department and if the student is NOT a good fit, ask for him or her to be relocated.

    • Tell students what NOT to say—especially in patient care areas.

    • Identify allowable tasks—students want to be a benefit to the lab.

  • 5.

    Clinical experience is an extension of class didactic and lab

    • Obtain the syllabus from the school and try to incorporate the topics into the daily educational sessions with the students.

  • 6.

    Students must be mentored

    • The responsibility for adequate and complete studies must remain with the clinical preceptor.

    • Students are learning; therefore the preceptor must assure quality within the lab.

The majority of our cardiac and vascular staff sonographers were at one time students within our institution. With the increase in daily volume, we noted a demand for additional staff which was easily met by former students who already knew how to function in the system. Serving as a clinical site has been advantageous for both the staff and hospital administration because institutions without some form of resource for hiring new staff end up offering costly bonuses or paying contract staff and/or overworking current staff. With that being said, I would like to thank the following program directors: Dennis Carney, from Spokane Community College; Jessica Murphy, from Alvin Community College; and Terry Case from Nova Southeastern University. In addition, I would like to thank Joan Douglass and Alex Neuman. Obviously, we cannot hire everyone, and even if we did some would not choose to stay in the south. But the sonographers, fellows, and faculty remember the students and enjoy keeping in touch with those who have moved on and always wish them well.

To find a list of accredited schools in your area please visit the following Website: http://www.caahep.org/Find-An-Accredited-Program/ .

To learn more about Jessica Murphy, please visit the ASE Sonographer of Month on the Sonographer Council pages at asecho.org .

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Jun 16, 2018 | Posted by in CARDIOLOGY | Comments Off on Happy New Year!

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