Top Five FOAMed Resources for POCUS: A Medical Student Review
Author: Mel Ebeling, BS
Artifact? Attenuation? The Doppler Effect? Fanning vs. Sliding vs. Rocking? Let’s face it, the learning process for point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS) can be a tedious one. In order to effectively use POCUS for diagnosis and management of patients at the bedside, more than just memorizing where to place the probe is required. Rather, knowing what constitutes a “good” image, as well as how to acquire and interpret one, requires a working understanding of ultrasound physics, machine operations, and human anatomy. In healthcare, however, this conceptual knowledge is seldom affordable (especially for medical students and residents). Coined by Dr. Mike Cadogan in 2012, Free Open Access Medical Education (FOAMed) refers to collections of online resources that provide students with access to medical knowledge for free. In this post, I will share my top five FOAMed resources for learning POCUS. The following resources will work for both newcomers and advanced attending physicians looking for material to teach their residents.
For learners who desire a comprehensive course on ultrasound physics, Sononerds offers 25 modules ranging from 10 minutes to 1.5 hours. Sononerds provides thorough and engaging lectures on par with a university-level ultrasound physics course. Starting with a review of basic mathematics, Sononerds will bring you through properties of sound waves, attenuation, echoes, harmonics, artifacts, and so much more. At the time this post was written, you can even gain access to PDF workbooks that accompany each of the lectures for free. Additionally, Sononerds has a nine-part course on normal abdominal ultrasound with workbooks that can be requested for free or with a small donation.
For those who have a solid understanding of anatomy and some experience with ultrasound, the POCUS Atlas is your one-stop shop for clips of both normal and pathological cases. Each clip is cataloged by organ system, titled clearly, and most are accompanied by a short vignette of the patient in the description. In some clips, structures are also labeled or color-coded for easier interpretation. Thanks to a partnership with Denver Health Ultrasound, the POCUS Atlas also houses comprehensive guides and images for performing a variety of different procedural nerve blocks. A final feature worth highlighting, the POCUS Atlas also contains an evidence atlas with sensitivities, specificities, and likelihood ratios for diagnosing select conditions using POCUS.
POCUS 101 is another great stop for FOAMed resources, especially if you like to read through well-organized text. While this site offers some paid courses, there are plenty of tutorials you can read for free. I found the tutorial, “Ultrasound and Physics and Artifacts,” to be especially helpful for learning the basics of how ultrasound machines work. The labeled diagrams and images in each tutorial are another highlight of POCUS 101, especially for students new to POCUS who are still learning how to make sense of image orientation and anatomy.
If you consider yourself an auditory learner and/or appreciate the traditional lecture format, this FOAMed resource may be the one for you! The Academy of Emergency Ultrasound (AEUS), as part of the Society of Academic Emergency Medicine’s Academy, has created a Vimeo page full of lectures on a variety of different ultrasound topics relevant to emergency physicians, including, but not limited to, POCUS for DVTs, emergency echo, ultrasound-guided ET tube, peripheral IV placement, ultrasound of the aorta, and much more. I have found their lectures to be well organized and easy to understand, even at my level as a beginning medical student.
If you are interested in echocardiography or perioperative ultrasound, this is the FOAMed resource for you. This site contains bite-sized videos ranging from 10-90 minutes primarily discussing focused cardiovascular ultrasound topics, such as valvular and ventricular assessments. This is another great option for those who learn best through the traditional lecture-format. This is also a good resource to understand the specifics of evaluating cardiac function.
In this post, I discussed my top five online FOAMed resources to use for your own POCUS education. The most important thing to remember regardless of how and where you acquire fundamental POCUS knowledge, solidifying this knowledge with hands-on practice and then validating those skills through certification is imperative. Only after seeing what normal anatomy looks like on ultrasound will you truly be able to recognize when there is an abnormality present in a patient.
Think you’ve mastered the basics of POCUS? Demonstrate your knowledge by Earning Your POCUS Fundamentals Certificate