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SLU PA Program Integrates Point-Of-Care Ultrasound Technology

The Saint Louis University (SLU) Physician Assistant (PA) program faculty members spent time in early 2020 training with point-of-care (POC) ultrasound technology in preparation to incorporate the technology in the PA curriculum. POC ultrasound refers to the use of smaller, portable technology (an iPad, for example) to diagnose patients or assist in therapeutic procedures at the patient’s bedside.

PA Faculty Training with Point of Care Ultrasound
PA Program Director Caroline Chang being trained on a new point-of-care ultrasound system.

The SLU PA program has had traditional ultrasound training in its curriculum since 2014, but Program Director Caroline Chang, MMS, PA-C, explained why the program is seeking to expand the use of the technology in the near future.

“There is a growing shift in medicine towards using ultrasound for diagnostic purposes. Ultrasound is quick, cost-effective and saves patients from the radiation exposure of a CT scan,” Chang said. “It is being used increasingly in emergency rooms, hospital floors and even outpatient facilities, depending on the situation, and these are all areas of medicine where PAs can be found.”

Chang went on to explain how POC ultrasound provides additional benefits that traditional ultrasound technology does not.

“Point-of-Care ultrasound provides the ability for PAs and other health care providers to care for patients in a more timely manner,” Chang said. “It is a smaller, more portable version of ultrasound that is performed by the provider right at the patient’s location.”

PA Assistant Professor Chezna Warner, PA-C, MHS, MSW, commented how PAs adding this tool to their skill set will be able to improve the patient’s experience.

“The more trained providers who can competently use point-of-care ultrasound, the better for the patients. Imagine your PA being able to tell you immediately if you had pneumonia or an Achilles tear or gallstones instead of waiting for the ultrasound or x-ray at a later time,” Werner said. “A PA’s training in anatomy and pathophysiology coupled with their close access to patients puts us in an excellent position to use this training and technology to provide immediate diagnosis and initiate the correct plan for our patients.”

Image of POC Ultrasound Technology in Use
PA Assistant Professor Chezna Warner training with the point-of-care ultrasound technology.

The move to remote learning interrupted the faculty’s training on POC ultrasound technology. The PA program hopes to be able to resume training and incorporate this technology into its curriculum within the next year.

Saint Louis University is a Catholic, Jesuit institution that values academic excellence, life-changing research, compassionate health care, and a strong commitment to faith and service. Founded in 1818, the University fosters the intellectual and character development of nearly 13,000 students on two campuses in St. Louis and Madrid, Spain. Building on a legacy of more than 200 years, Saint Louis University continues to move forward with an unwavering commitment to a higher purpose, a greater good.