Clever Ways For Busy Veterinarians To Improve Their Scanning Skills

learn to scan scanning ultrasound courses ultrasound machine veterinary ultrasound Oct 06, 2023
veterinary ultrasound machine being used by a vet and vet nurse to scan a dog

Understanding the Time Challenge


The most common words I hear from vets who want to invest in veterinary ultrasound training but haven’t done anything about it yet is that they don’t have time! 


Oh, how I relate to this comment!  As a Mum to three daughters with a social life to rival any A-list celebrity, I know that feeling of frustration of wanting to do something but thinking “How will I find the time to fit THAT into my day as well?”.


Confidently learning where to place the probe on the abdomen may be slow due to staff shortages, extra paperwork, and unplanned emergency cases, but there are steps you can take to make the most of your limited time and overcome time constraints in veterinary practice.


The Power of Small Changes


Something I’ve learnt from my experience of ‘taking on another thing’ is that small changes DO make a difference, especially when it comes to practising ultrasound for vets.  


We all have the same amount of time, but how we use it is what sets us apart. Admittedly some things may feel beyond our control, but for the 3 minutes it takes you to read this email let’s focus on what we can control in our day to make time for ultrasound training practising ultrasound feel less of a challenge. 


Practical Tips for Easier Ultrasound Practice


Here are my top tips for easier ultrasound practice during your working day.


Make it easy to scan - Remove practical barriers from practising scanning


Keep your ultrasound machine out ready to scan–this might mean in a dedicated room–but if you already do this do you just walk past it? 


Is it easily accessible or do you have to move things?  Get it out of a bag etc. 


Maybe it would be better to have it set up where you prepare patients for surgery–then you could scan patients who are already clipped–also if you find something unusual, you will get to assess it quickly when you perform the surgery.


Create a habit of practice - Streamlining the machine start-up process


Switch the machine on when you finish consults. Sometimes we would like to just pop the probe on something quickly, but wait for the machine to switch on and the moment has passed.


If the barrier of switching on is removed then we might be more inclined to use it. And it’s a simple thing to do–switch the machine on at the end of consults or before surgery starts.


Find a friend to help you - The role of a willing scanning dog


By this, I mean a willing scanning dog, whether that’s your own or a colleague’s dog.


Schedule when you can bring them to your practice–obviously, this will often trigger a busy day, but if you schedule it regularly enough, then sometimes there will be time!


Change your mindset for success


Keep it simple then add on - Start with basic scanning tasks


You don’t have to learn it all in one go. Start with something small–whether that’s performing an abdominal FAST scan once a day/week, or scanning a single organ systematically regularly.


This will teach you what normal is and hone those imperceptible skills such as hand-eye-screen-knobs coordination. 


Keeping it simple will make it more likely to happen and help you take leaps and bounds with small steps forward.


Banish negative thoughts - Build confidence in your skills 


When you get a case that would benefit from ultrasound try and catch yourself if you hear yourself saying any of these phrases.


 “X would do a better ultrasound than me, I’ll wait until they’re available”.


“My scanning skills are not worth charging for”.


”It’s not fair on the patient to be sedated for my scanning skills”. 


These are all self-limiting beliefs and will stop you from learning and progressing. 


Just do the ultrasound!


Plan for time to practise - The importance of scheduled tasks


Scheduled tasks are more likely to be done than unplanned ones.


Schedule some time to practise scanning and organise a willing dog if you haven't already done so.  To increase the chances of it happening, consider making this a regular time slot so that it happens automatically. This step is even more important if you plan to do an ultrasound course as it will help you consolidate what you have learned.


Take control of your learning journey


Waiting for the right time and the right patient rarely happens when we need it the most, therefore you must be confident and creative with what you can control.


Whether you're considering an ultrasound course or simply looking to improve your scanning abilities, taking control of your learning is essential. 


Don't wait for the right moment - create it.

Sick of feeling like you have no time to learn ultrasound? Join one of my online CPD courses where in just 4-weeks you can confidently start scanning whatever is put in front of you.  Click here to learn more.