But what you don’t need is the feeling that you have be a “perfect” scanner, a great speller, have expert level recall of all pathologies, or be in a position of seniority in your workplace. Many of the best clinical instructors that I know are just a few years out of school themselves and have clear memories of their own practicums, their own struggles with learning ultrasound, and their own victorious moments of success.
For me, teaching was an incredible reminder of how far I had come since I was student, the amazing skills that I had acquired and how much useful medical knowledge I had tucked away in my brain. I was thrilled by the realization that I was so good!
After all, I worked very hard to survive school and my clinical placements, but it is easy to get caught up in the daily rush of working full time and forget to congratulate yourself on the accomplishments that you’ve achieved.
But teaching also turned around and reminded me about some things that I had forgotten, or let lapse. It gave me the motivation to brush up on a few semi-obscure pathologies, techniques and values so that I could test the student on them. In that way it made me a better, smarter sonographer as well.
Now, many people seem to get stuck on the frustrations of teaching as a reason not to do it, but that mindset keeps them from seeing all the benefits that working with a student can bring.
By being a positive influence on a student you are having a beneficial effect on the hundreds or thousands of patients and people that this student will interact with once they are out scanning as a tech. This is far more than you could ever influence in your day alone. It increases your positive influence exponentially!
I highly recommend becoming a clinical instructor or teacher as part of a well-rounded ultrasound career. But in doing that I want to share with you the reality of what the work will be like.
The most common frustrations
- Watching the student sweep through the perfect image a dozen times and then choose to save the worst one
- Getting stuck on one window and not leaving it while assessing an organ
- Being light handed – not pushing hard enough to take clear images
- Forgetting, on an ongoing basis, to properly label or measure accurately!
But these are all solvable problems, and they will give you the utmost satisfaction to see when your student finally does it correctly. After all, you taught them how to do that!
Helpful tips for keeping it fun
- Leave the room for a few minutes (a short period of scanning independently helps to build confidence for a student anyway) and take yourself to the break room to make a cup of tea, have a little snack, or do a calming visualization. I like to keep an extra bar of dark chocolate in my locker for moments like this
- Share your stories later with coworkers in a humorous way to help you see the comedy in the situation yourself. You’ll probably get a hilarious story in return, because healthcare is full of funny moments
- Take a moment to remember back to your days as a student and how challenging EVERYTHING was to you. You’ve come a long way from that nervous little student and so will your student, if you can just give them the patience that others gave you
- Remember to let them make mistakes and learn at their own pace, nothing has to be done perfectly, this is the entire point of the practicum experience, to learn by doing. Often just knowing that they made a mistake is enough to teach a student how not to do it again
Every student will be different and each one will be better than the last. Despite the occasional frustration I’ve found immense enjoyment in being able to teach and help the students that have worked with me.
I love being able to give them a positive experience, confidence in their abilities and see them become more independent and sure of themselves.
I am grateful to all the patient and knowledgeable teachers that I had when I was a student, they have allowed me to help so many others.
I hope this helps you to consider being a clinical instructor for the next student that comes through your department. Happy Scanning!