Five Top Tips for the student sonographer

Shaunna Smith Clinicl Specialist Sonographer working at Hull University Teaching Hospitals has put together Five Top Tips for the student sonographer

The sonography learning environment is so much more than having your hand on a probe and physically scanning. We often forget about the wider skills required of a sonographer outside of physical scanning. Your opportunity to learn whilst pressured, is incredibly precious and you need to ensure you utilise and squeeze every last drop of learning you can. However, departments can be very busy and you won’t always be able to scan every patient. Some days you may not scan anyone at all. But instead of feeling deflated and hindered, how can you ensure you maximise your learning without physically scanning?

1. Equipment – Watch which parameters the sonographer is altering. How does this adjust the image? Does changing such parameters make the image better or worse?  Perhaps you could alter the equipment settings whilst the sonographer scans. Talk aloud how changing each parameter improves image quality.

2. History taking – Whilst the sonographer is scanning or before the sonographer begins scanning, take a thorough patient history. This British Medical Journal promotes a wealth of documentation for how to take a thorough general medical history. Try formulating a diagnosis from the patient history alone. For example, Try ensuring that the woman’s menstrual cycle from her history matches up with the physical appearances you are seeing whilst the sonographer scans. 

3. Consenting/disseminating results – Providing explanations of intimate examinations can be a  daunting task. Listen to how sonographers explain examinations thoroughly to ensure patients can provide full consent. You as the trainee could consent patients to these scans before the sonographer begins. Disseminating results is also quite onerous. Try taking the lead on this – write down your thoughts and show them to the sonographer then you try and explain these findings to the patient in a concise and non-jargon manner. 

4. Report writing – Review images on PACS without reviewing reports and try to formulate reports. Look at where the similarities and differences are in yours and the sonographer’s reports. Try and formulate reports whilst the sonographer is scanning and determine whether your reports are similar.

5. Learn the paperwork – Obstetrics especially has a huge amount of paperwork involved. Be helpful. Complete paperwork, fill in computer databases, fill in patient notes. Understanding pathways from start to finish including all of the supporting documentation is what really prepares you for your first day as a newly qualified sonographer and ensures you do not become overwhelmed. The more you do this as a trainee, the easier it becomes and the slicker you become.