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Ultrasound Student Assessment (USA) Program – Update

Our last two (Part 1) (Part 2) blogs focused on career self-assessment for aspiring ultrasound/sonographer professionals.  We received an enthusiastic response from many students and entry-level sonographers.  Additionally, instructors from multiple sonography training programs asked us to offer some advice on what they could do to more effectively identify candidates likely to thrive and succeed in a diagnostic medical career.

So, while this subject-matter may target a more narrow audience, it seems worthwhile to discuss the fruits of Pegasus Lectures’ ongoing study on Ultrasound Student Assessment.

2008-sdms-imageOn background, this program was conceived following the 2008 SDMS Annual Conference in Mashantucket, Connecticut.  Pegasus Lectures President, Frank Miele, in discussions with many program instructors picked up on a common challenge and frustration –

Many students, nearing the end of their program seemed inproficient in the skills necessary to adequately perform ultrasound assessments and studies.



This inproficiency represented a setback for the student and the institution, both being negatively impacted by a loss of time and financial resources.  Initially discouraged, they felt there must be a way to improve their selection process to identify a disposition and skillset matched to the challenges of a career in ultrasound technology. As a result of these discussions, Pegasus Lectures commenced a three-phase, longitudinal research project (the Ultrasound Student Assessment Program).

The specifics of our study were presented at the following SDMS Annual Conference.  75 ultrasound study programs responded, representing participation by nearly 25% of the national programs.  

Based on the respondents’ surveys:

  • Instructors’ estimates of their acceptance rates averaged out at 27%.
  • 21% of students selected into their ultrasound programs did not graduate on to perform ultrasound studies professionally.
  • Entrance requirements were widely varied.
  • Only 50% of the institutions responding conducted interviews as an entrance requirement.
  • Less than 16% tested for problem-solving skills, and only 20% asked technical questions in the admissions process.

Our research strongly suggested there was collective room for process-improvement in academic selection methodology.  With that in mind, we further analyzed and parsed the data in order to weigh instructor opinion/beliefs on what qualities of student behavior portended future career success versus actual graduation rates as a metric of “success”.

The opinions of survey-participating instructors are condensed to these conclusions:

Academic success is associated with

      • Motivation
      • Study Habits

Ability to scan proficiently is associated with

      • Coordination
      • Spatial Recognition Skills
      • Dedication/Perseverance

To operate effectively in a hospital/lab setting is associated with

      • Communication
      • Social Skills/Emotional Intelligence
      • Integrity/Compassion

The correlations between surveyed instructors’ presumptions of predictive skillsets to those qualities possessed by actual graduates will be discussed in our next blog.

Frank Miele, MSEE , President of Pegasus Lectures, Inc.  Frank graduated cum laude from Dartmouth College with a triple major in physics, mathematics, and engineering. While at Dartmouth, he was a Proctor Scholar and received citations for academic excellence in comparative literature, atomic physics and quantum mechanics, and real analysis. Frank was a research and design engineer and project leader, designing ultrasound equipment and electronics for more than ten years at Hewlett Packard Company. As a designer of ultrasound, he has lectured across the country to sonographers, physicians, engineers and students on myriad topics.

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One Response to Ultrasound Student Assessment (USA) Program – Update

  1. Regina Swearengin, BS, RDMS says:

    I was one of the sonography program directors that discussed frustration with admissions processes and outcomes for students and graduates with Frank. I was more than excited that he decided to dedicate so much time and effort to fully explore the issue and to come up with a way to improve our outcomes. Our program participated with Frank in this process and we have used the USA test for our last two admission classes.

    Although the first class to take the USA test has not graduated from the program yet, there seems to be good correlation with USA test results and success in our program. We will have better data for correlation once this class cohort graduates and we will continue to refer to the USA test results of the second cohort as they progress through the program.

    Thanks so much, Frank, for working on this issue and for finding ways to test new students (and hopefully potential applicants for our program) that truly reflect the skills and talents needed for learning sonography.

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