Call for Clinical Affiliate Sites
There is a severe shortage of sonographers throughout the United States. This critical shortage can be addressed in two ways:
- increase student enrollment in sonography and cardiovascular technology educational programs
- increase the number of sonography and cardiovascular technology educational programs
Both of these require an increase in the number of clinical affiliate sites. Sonography and cardiovascular technology educational programs need the guidance, expertise, and involvement of the healthcare community in addressing the tremendous need for clinical affiliate sites.
As the educational level of sonographers rises in response to an evolving profession and the technology that supports it, formal educational programs with clinical education components are a critical element in the education of our future sonographers. However, many programs have a very difficult time obtaining adequate clinical sites for their students to acquire clinical skills.
When asked to mentor students, many potential affiliate sites had misconceptions about their role. The following highlights some of the common "myths" as well as the "truth" about the benefits of mentoring students.
Myth: "We're too busy to be involved with students. Working with students is just more work."
Truth: Actually, students can help reduce staff's workload by assisting with the daily tasks, paperwork, and providing extra assistance needed for patient care. In addition, as the student's scanning skills improve, staff sonographers observe and supervise and their actual scanning time is decreased. Thus, staff receive the added benefit of being able to 'take a break' from direct scanning which is highly recommended for preventing or reducing musculoskeletal injury (MSI). For more information on MSI, visit: http://www.sdms.org/msi/default.asp
Myth: "We should get extra pay to teach students; it is not part of my job."
Truth: Many facilities actively support employee mentoring. You are encouraged to check this out with your human resources department. Also, take time to tell your employees about the benefits of student rotations. Let them know how important their expertise and experience are to students and the future of the profession.
Myth: "We're concerned that our patients will be unhappy about having students in
the exam room, and we fear losing business."
Truth: When patients are informed that your facility is a 'clinical teaching site', they are typically impressed and are eager to provide a learning opportunity for the
student. This is common practice in teaching hospitals, clinics, physician offices, etc.
The majority of your patients are aware of the value of this experience in the training
of healthcare professionals.
Myth: "We don't allow any discussion or questions during the exam because it may
upset the patient."
Truth: Most patients are very interested in their examination. Simply informing the patient that you will be providing student instruction during the examination will alleviate any patient concerns. In fact, most patients are often very interested in the information provided to the student because it helps them to better understand the procedure. This situation becomes a learning experience for everyone. In addition, the educational program director, in concert with the clinical coordinator, will help affiliate clinical sites set up strategies for discussing sensitive information about cases with students outside the immediate patient scanning area.
Myth: "I'm afraid the student will ask questions that I can't answer since I didn't attend a formal educational school."
Truth: When teaching, both students and sonographers learn. Students often motivate staff and provide incentive for them to sharpen their skills, review information previously learned, and keep up with the new techniques and advancements in the field. For the practicing sonographer, continuing education is essential. Providing clinical instruction is one way to foster the value of continued professional development.
Myth: "All of the sonographers in our facility need to have ARDMS credentials in order to be a clinical site."
Truth: The designated clinical instructor (the individual evaluating the student) should have all the appropriate credentials for the learning concentrations the program offers. According to JRC-DMS and JRC-CVT Standards, each clinical site must have a minimum of a one-to-one ratio of students to staff and scanning stations.
Myth: "My hospital/facility is too small to be a clinical site."
Truth: Many programs use smaller sites as long as the program can maintain good outcomes for its graduates. The JRC-DMS and JRC-CVT Standards contain guidelines on the number of procedures a clinical site should perform to be a clinical affiliate site.
Benefits of Becoming a Clinical Affiliate Site
- 1) Students are potential new employees. Working with students enables you to create an applicant pool for existing and future job openings. Graduates of sonography programs are more likely to seek employment at the affiliate site that provided them with their clinical experience. The benefits of this type of staff employment are substantial, some of which are:
SDMS CME credit is available to sonographers whose facility participates as a clinical affiliate site. The CME credit application must be submitted by the program director of a CAAHEP-accredited educational program affiliated with the clinical site. For additional information, visit: http://www.sdms.org/cme/default.asp
- reduced costs associated with staff recruitment
- reduced costs associated with prospective employee interviews
- reduced costs associated with new employee orientation because of the students' familiarity with the facility's/department's policy and procedures
- increased staff retention: during the students' clinical site rotation (often 3-4 months), you and the students have ample time to determine if future employment would be mutually beneficial
- increased patient satisfaction-students can assist sonographers by preparing the next scheduled patient for examination thus reducing patient waiting time
How to Become a Clinical Affiliate Site
Typically, the educational institution will provide the clinical facility with an affiliation agreement. The agreement includes the guidelines and respective responsibilities that form the structure of the relationship. This relationship has proven over time to be of benefit to the student, the affiliate clinical site, its staff, and ultimately, the consumer of the profession's services.
If your facility/institution is interested in becoming a clinical affiliate site, you are encouraged to contact the program director(s) of the sonography and cardiovascular technology educational programs in your area.
For additional information on CAAHEP-accredited DMS or CVT programs, visit:
For additional information on the JRCDMS Standards, visit:
For additional information on the JRCCVT Standards, visit:
Other Related Resources
- Selecting a Diagnostic Medical Sonography Education Program
- Educational Program Questionnaire
- ARDMS Registered Sonographer Career Path
- ARDMS Certification Examinations