Ultrasound can be intimidating when starting out in school, especially if you’re like me and had no previous experience with it. In my first-year, we talked about it fairly briefly in our introduction to radiology class. In anatomy, we took several trips down to the large animal hospital where we had a short amount of time to practice using the probe and looking at different structures on horses. During those short trips, I felt lost and overwhelmed. I was worried if I would ever be able to figure out this black and white puzzle and use this tool as a doctor.
Let me tell you the secret to understanding ultrasound. It’s practice! It’s truly as elementary as that. Last summer at my internship, I was able to witness a lot of ultrasounds. In addition to a 24-hour emergency clinic, the facility was also a busy specialty practice with an exceptional oncologist. A considerable part of oncology is biopsy and imaging and this is where I learned to hone my fundamental ultrasound skills. When first starting, it was challenging. I couldn’t tell if I was looking at organs or an alien. But over time it got easier to know what I was looking at. The kidneys were the easiest, then the liver, the gallbladder, the spleen—I could see it all! I was even able to practice my skills in navigating the probe (harder than it sounds at first!) and I became more comfortable in my abilities to find and distinguish structures.
I will still need a lot of practice to discriminate normal and abnormal, but having this basic foundation of ultrasonography gives me confidence for the future.