Many of you will have spent time over the last few weeks viewing the BSEcho2021 sessions, either live or on demand. As always, there were so many fantastic and informative sessions to choose from and lots to learn about.
Whilst I look forward to attending face-to-face again next year, the virtual conference sessions over the last couple of years, have supplemented our echo learning and allowed the continuation of gaining valuable insights into key areas of echocardiography, which can help shape and improve our scanning and reporting indefinitely. This shared knowledge is invaluable and is a key part of ensuring best practice and continued professional development, on a personal, departmental, regional and national scale. What I always enjoy the most is the opportunity to pick up key nuggets of information on pathologies that I don’t come across very often in my daily clinical practice, which is why I particularly enjoyed the congenital sessions and I look forward to putting the sequential approach into action on my next ACHD scan.
The past 18-24 months have been a challenge for us all, but the British Society of Echocardiography team have been extremely busy publishing several new and updated guidelines for the collective benefit of the echo community and that of our patients. BSE guidelines offer advice, recommendations and theoretical knowledge on how to perform echocardiography both during routine standard transthoracic echocardiography, and also in certain key cardiac conditions. As BSE accredited members, it is our individual responsibilities, to ensure that we remain up to date with current best practice, especially regarding societal guidelines. Things progress and advance extremely quickly in cardiology, and the comprehensive BSE minimum dataset which was published in Echo Research and Practice in December 2020, has a few mandatory changes which now should form a part of all standard echocardiograms, such as measuring LVOT diameter, AV VTI, LVOT VTI and RV FAC. These changes take a little effort to implement at first, but with practice and repetition, soon become part of our normal echo routines. I, like many of you I’m sure, had COVID a few months ago, which meant a mandatory ten says of self-isolation and thankfully, I was not very symptomatic. I have recently started a new position for Xyla Diagnostics – currently the UK's largest echocardiography provider – as a Regional Lead Echocardiographer in the West Midlands area. The isolation period gave me the time that I needed to go through all of the newer guidelines. Whilst I was aware of them and had previously skimmed through them all, I was able to spend a bit more time absorbing and understanding the key messages and recommended changes in to practice in order to ensure that I am performing echocardiograms in line with current best practice. The newer BSE guidelines have been written in an innovatively, easy to digest and engaging style with lots of in-depth theoretical knowledge coupled with invaluable practical scanning and reporting tips. During my isolation, I was able to put together a quick update presentation, summarising the main key points and changes in each guideline which I presented at our first face-to-face team meeting since I joined the company. I am pleased to say that it went down well, and most of the team were pleasantly surprised at the number of changes and were all very keen to begin implementing them. I recently presented the guideline summary update again to the wider Xyla Diagnostics echo team at a monthly staff engagement meeting and this sharing of knowledge now means that more members of our team will be implementing these recommended and mandatory updates in their daily clinical practice. After gaining accreditation in echo it is important that we all ensure that the scans that we perform on a daily basis are meeting the ever-changing best practice guidelines – after all, some of our patients have been waiting up to six months for these scans in some centres, so they definitely deserve a scan that is worth the wait!
Sharing echo knowledge can also be inspirational to other members of the multidisciplinary team and the next generation of potential echocardiographers. For the last 6 years I have taught an echo lecture on a post graduate nursing long term cardiac conditions module. Many nurses regularly request echocardiograms for their patients, but very few actually know how they are performed or what they show or look like. I know that I am biased as an echocardiographer but echo is great as you are able to visualise and contextualise what is causing our patients’ symptoms, and for the nurses who treat those patients, getting to see and understand echo for the first time is often a treat for them too, rather than just hearing the Doppler sounds behind the curtains!
The next generation of echocardiographers often do not know that being a cardiac physiologist/clinical scientist or echocardiographer is even a career option. Whilst engaging in healthcare science days or becoming a STEM ambassador will not address the workforce shortages that we face in echocardiography right now, it will help in the future. On most of the STEM volunteering activities that I have done in schools (many are delivered on Zoom/Teams now), most young people are not aware of our occupation (I am sure that most of us were also unaware during our school days), and hearing about what we do gives them another career option which can only help us in the long run.
Empowering others by sharing our knowledge is something that we can all do, whether training junior members of staff, summarising new guidelines for our team, or explaining what an echocardiogram is to nursing staff or school children. Echo is amazing and it’s only right that we shout about it from time to time!
Regional Lead Echocardiographer (West Midlands), Xyla Diagnostics