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Supporting ultrasound students during Covid-19

8 June, 2020

Author: Marianne Hamer, Strategic Lead for Imaging

From left: Laura Brown, Faye Morley, Rebecca Kennedy (who will begin training in September), and Nicola Lincoln

Liverpool Women’s Hospital (LWH) historically has struggled with the recruitment and retention of sonographers. Our work in obstetrics and gynaecology means that ultrasound is a key diagnostic modality and sonographers are much needed and valued.

We rely heavily on a ‘grow your own’ strategy and have an annual intake of at least two student sonographers, who are usually radiographers and can also contribute to our radiography services.

We decided to increase our cohort to three last year and recruited two radiographers and a midwife who had been trained in third trimester ultrasound. We staggered their entry points so that we did not have all at the same point of training.

This year Covid-19 restrictions and adaptations hit and the training of AHPs temporarily halted. But we felt that we could continue to support training in a safe manner. Students are paid and contracted members of staff and so have full employment rights.

What we have done

  • The trust has restricted partners and children accompanying patients to reduce footfall in hospital.
  • The hospital has maintained good levels of Covid-19 testing for staff.
  • Sickness absence by sonographers has been less than 10% so students have continued to have the required level of supervision.
  • We have been able to provide and follow all PHE PPE guidance with fantastic support from governance leads to ensure staff are trained and have support if needed.
  • Brilliant support from medical, nursing and midwifery colleagues to ensure appropriate referrals are being made.
  • Students and sonographers are not scanning known positive or symptomatic patients. These patients are being scanned by obstetric consultants, where needed.
  • Training days are being staggered to minimise the number of students training each day.
  • Placements are in community sites to reduce the number of staff at the main site.
  • A regular review is held by the management team to ensure that conditions remain safe for all staff.
  • Regular catch-ups are held with students to ensure they feel supported and can raise concerns.
  • Senior management support for the continuation of training once assurance of safety has been provided.
  • Wellbeing support provided by the trust.

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