Secondary Logo

Journal Logo

Institutional members access full text with Ovid®

Integration of Ultrasound Into the Physician Assistant Curriculum

Rizzolo, Denise PhD, PA-C; Krackov, Rachel E. PhD, MPAS, PA-C, RVS

The Journal of Physician Assistant Education: June 2019 - Volume 30 - Issue 2 - p 103–110
doi: 10.1097/JPA.0000000000000251
Special Article

Purpose Over the past 10 years, successful ultrasound integration into medical education has resulted in 8 residencies and 52 undergraduate medical schools requiring ultrasound training for graduation. Physician assistants (PAs) are trained in the medical model, yet very little is known about the integration of ultrasound into their curricula. This study examined how ultrasound is used, if at all, in the PA education curricula.

Methods Physician assistant program directors (PDs) were sent a survey addressing ultrasound integration into their curricula. Questions focused on the use of ultrasound to teach didactic courses and on inclusion of point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) scanning skills as an adjunct to the physical examination. The survey also asked about students' feelings toward ultrasound integration into the curricula.

Results Investigators contacted 201 PDs, and 107 (53.2%) PDs responded. Twenty-five of the respondents (23.4%) reported using ultrasound in the basic sciences. The top 3 reasons for not including ultrasound in preclinical courses were no ultrasound machine, expense, and no faculty trained in ultrasound. Seventy-three of the respondents (68.2%) thought that POCUS scanning skills should be included in the curriculum. More than 83% felt that faculty or adjunct faculty should teach those skills.

Conclusion This survey demonstrated that there is great interest in integrating ultrasound into the PA curriculum but that many challenges inhibit implementation. Lack of access to ultrasound machines and to trained faculty are the biggest challenges to integrating ultrasound into the PA curriculum. Physician assistant programs face content and competency challenges similar to those that medical schools face, as well as several challenges that are unique to PA education. Future research is needed to address these issues.

Denise Rizzolo, PhD, PA-C, is an assessment and evaluation specialist for the Physician Assistant Education Association in Washington, DC, and an assistant clinical professor for the Pace University Physician Assistant Program in New York, New York.

Rachel E. Krackov, PhD, MPAS, PA-C, RVS, is the Director of Physician Assistant POCUS Education and adjunct professor for the four physician assistant programs of Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Correspondence should be addressed to: Denise Rizzolo, PhD, PA-C, NYC Campus Physician Assistant Program, Pace University, 163 Williams Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10038. Telephone: (862) 668-1181; Email:

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Copyright © 2019 Physician Assistant Education Association
You currently do not have access to this article

To access this article:

Note: If your society membership provides full-access, you may need to login on your society website