My first rotation as a pediatric emergency medicine (PEM) fellow was on the adult trauma service. It was 2006 and in West Philadelphia there was no shortage of patients with gun shot wounds, stabbings, and motor vehicle crashes. The trauma surgeons were hard on the surgery trainees, and generally nice to the PEM fellows. We weren’t training to be surgeons on the front line after all. One attending, however, was indiscriminate in his wrath and unbiased in his intent to humiliate.
A few days into the rotation, during a trauma alert, he chose me: “Jennifer, the FAST, do the FAST!” I was completely puzzled and looked at him blankly. This, of course, made him angrier. “Do the FAST exam!”
Unable to admit at the time that I had never heard of the FAST exam, I remained silent. Seeking to avoid any fear, shame, or humiliation that would certainly accompany future traumas, I immediately read everything I could about it, and the surgery fellows taught me at the bedside.
I returned to the children’s hospital wanting to learn more about ultrasound. Unfortunately, at the time, no one in PEM knew much about it. In fact, none of my colleagues or mentors had any experience with it. I sought guidance from my general emergency medicine colleagues next door who welcomed me and trained me as one of their own.
In time, I proposed a research study in the pediatric emergency department: point-of-care ultrasound for pediatric soft tissue infections. At the time, the radiology faculty weren’t keen on this. They were unaware of non-radiologists using ultrasound and didn’t understand why emergency physicians would need to use it. It was a slippery slope, they argued, and might result in indiscriminate and “unregulated” usage. We compromised–I could use ultrasound in the emergency department solely for research purposes. The machine, literally under lock and key, was off limits to anyone but those involved in the study.
As I found out, my experience was not unique. Many of my PEM colleagues around the country faced similar obstacles from specialists outside of the emergency department. Point-of-care ultrasound at that time was simply not the standard of care.
Nearly a decade later, I practice in a very different climate. Point-of-care ultrasound is a mainstay in my patient care practice; and I now have the support (and collaboration) of my radiology colleagues and others outside of emergency medicine.
More broadly, PEM ultrasound is a recognized subspecialty. Notably:
- There are approximately 10 dedicated 1-year fellowships in pediatric point-of-care ultrasound.
- Pediatric point-of-care ultrasound is part of the American Board of Pediatrics core content for pediatric emergency medicine fellowship training, and has been incorporated into the PEM subspecialty board examination.
- Landmark publications include the American Academy of Pediatrics Policy Statement and Technical Report for PEM point-of-care ultrasound.
- There is a PEM ultrasound international organization (www.p2network.com).
- AIUM invited me to write this blog.
We certainly have come a long way.
Do you have a similar ultrasound story? What other areas have come a long way when it comes to ultrasound? What areas are poised to be next? Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.
Jennifer R. Marin, MD, MSc, is Director of Emergency Ultrasound in the Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine as well as Quality Director, Point-of-Care Ultrasound at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.