Study finds academic skills don’t equal scanning skills

By MATTHEW DIXON

neighborhoods@columbiamissourian.com

Diagnostic ultrasounds, one of the most used medical tests in the world, has been the focus of a recent study at MU. Researchers have found a particular set of skills help certain students master sonography more quickly than others.

This set of skills, known as spatial skills, relates to a person’s ability to process and understand how objects fit together. In sonography, this is important because it is different from other medical tests, such as x-rays. A sonographer cannot capture the entire object at once, but instead must collect a series of images and assemble them into an order so they can be understood, according to an MU news release.

The study tested first-year ultrasound students’ spatial abilities prior to any major coursework, then tracked their performance over two semesters. At the end of the year there was a clear indication that students with better spatial skills performed better on scanning tests, according to the release.

Clinical assistant professor of MU’s diagnostic ultrasound program, Doug Clem was led the study into ultrasound students’ spatial abilities. He found that some of the stronger academic students did not necessarily transfer to skills in ultrasound skills.

“Even though you may be a really strong academic student, you may not learn to scan as easily as other people might,” Clem said in the release. “Some of our best students, straight-A students, will need extra time or extra clinical time to get past their scanning competency tests. This poses a challenge for selecting the best candidates for admission, and we think that spatial ability testing may turn out be one more piece of the puzzle that is needed to select the right individual.”

The team has started a larger second study, in cooperation with several universities, community colleges and proprietary schools from across the country according to the release.

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