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Hello my name is Paula Boucaut and I’m the Head of Course for the Echocardiography programs here at Central Queensland University.
I often get asked what an echocardiographer actually does when they’re working. Our role can be quite varied but the core aspect of it is we use fantastic machines like this, to take ultrasound images of the heart. Now with those images we can see inside the chest, we actually see the blood flow which is showing up here in colour on this image. We see the muscle and the valves of the heart and we can not only quantify how well someone’s heart is pumping but we can assess its size, the chambers, the vessels, the blood flow dynamics and the pressures within the heart. We use this information not only to diagnose when something’s wrong but to see how well and effective the medication and the management of a patient is, so quite often we pre-empt problems by looking at how well the heart’s coping long before a patient’s symptomatic, so that’s really beneficial in terms of patient care.
Students will complete over 2000 hours of clinical placement during the course starting from year two and finishing at year four. Those hours are broken into placement blocks, remembering during year two you do an eight week placement block and then in year three another sixteen week block and in year four two 16 week blocks as well. The advantage of doing the program is that the university sources those clinical site placement opportunities for the students but you do need to bear in mind that you need to prepare both emotionally and financially for clinical placement, it is a full time commitment, so when on clinical placement, five days a week you’ll be working in the healthcare setting.
Our simulation scanning labs are a crucial part of our program and it’s because here we bring students into give them a real taste of what it’s like on clinical practice, our department on campus are set up exactly like what you’d find in a clinical setting with equipment that you’ll still see out on clinical placement, so it’s all current. The advantage of doing this in simulation is that we can slow the pace down. If you were to train from the get go in clinical practice you’d be subject to time constraints and at the mercy of seeing a patient that’s well enough to tolerate a student that’s first learning. Whereas here we have a unique, quite calm setting. It’s a safe environment to learn and make mistakes and you do it with only three or four peers around the bed at any given time and a dedicated tutor standing beside you. Our skill sets are slowly developed and scaffolded from the very basic of learning how to hold a probe and sit ergonomically, right through to doing advanced measurements, so it’s carefully built upon and we have the time to develop those skills.