London North West University Healthcare has launched a new, state of the art Ultrasound Training Academy at Central Middlesex Hospital – the first of its kind in the UK.
Ultrasound scans are important diagnostic tests, used to check for everything from checking a baby’s wellbeing in pregnancy to looking for signs of disease – but the highly trained professionals who need to perform them, known as sonographers, are in short supply. To help meet rising demand, radiology manager Tanuja Khiroya suggested opening the Trust’s own training facility.
“We know that there’s a national shortage of sonographers,” Tanuja said. “The Academy gives us a training environment in the hospital setting, instead of what we do currently, which is to teach our trainees during our regular, busy examination sessions.”
With support from Health Education England, and working with technology partners Samsung and MIS, the Academy saw its first trainees come through its doors this autumn. Its two dedicated teaching examination rooms and simulator facility provide a first class environment for training. Students undertake an eighteen month course, with academic teaching provided by City University.
Lead Tutor Haroon Qarib explained that the simulation technology provided by the Academy is a great teaching opportunity: “It means that students can have better hands-on, practical training. Our simulator represents a step-change in training, allowing students to recognise anatomy and practice ultrasound methodology before meeting patients.” This doesn’t just help the students’ skills, but boosts their confidence when they see patients.
When students do come to perform exams on real life patients, the Academy makes sure that they have long enough with each patient by providing fully supervised examination sessions. “Our longer ultrasound examination time-slots mean that students can really put their learning into practice,” Haroon said.
Not all the students at the Academy are London North West University Healthcare staff – the Trust is working with other NHS organisations to help train staff from across the region. Chief Executive Dame Jacqueline Docherty said: “The Ultrasound Training Academy provides us with the opportunity to not only train our own radiographers who wish to progress to advance practitioner roles, but also our colleagues from across the sector in a real demonstration of partnership working.”
The Academy officially opened in November, with the Trust’s team and trainees joined by colleagues from neighbouring Trusts, and partners Health Education England, Samsung and MIS. Dame Jacqueline said: “We are delighted to be able to support this first cohort of trainees and to wish them the very best in their studies. I was really impressed with the skill and aptitude they already have. It is phenomenal to watch them at work because it isn’t easy. It takes time, effort, application and study to develop these skills, and I think we shouldn’t underestimate this.”