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Securing cardiac sonographers for rural services into the future

Cardiac sonography is one of the essential services that Heart of Australia provides on its Heart Trucks. It is a crucial component of our comprehensive cardiology service. Its availability allows patients to not only consult with a cardiologist but also to undergo essential testing – typically in a single trip to town.

A cardiac sonographer specialises in using non-invasive equipment to detect heart conditions. By performing ultrasound imaging or echocardiograms they can view the function of the heart, including the size of the chambers, blood flow and valve function. This essential examination allows the cardiologist to analyse the overall function of a patient’s heart and make an informed diagnosis.   

The relatively small number of qualified sonographers within Australians means good sonographers are always in high demand. In order for Heart of Australia to have ongoing access to high quality, trained sonographers into the future, we take an active role in sonography training.

Cardiac sonographer training involves a two-year part-time Postgraduate Diploma in Cardiac Ultrasound. This Postgraduate Diploma can only be undertaken by those who have completed a Bachelor’s degree in a recognised relevant science or allied health field.

The course is intensive and practical, with the student’s employer committing to provide access to the equipment and patient load required to train and gain the required skills. 

The first year of training entails detailed study of cardiac anatomy and physiology, ultrasound physics and basic cardiac ultrasound clinical practice techniques. The second and final year, involves studying advanced cardiac pathophysiology and cardiac ultrasound clinical practice. 

Heart of Australia is involved in training new cardiac sonographers. We identify potential participants, who we believe have not only the technical skills to become proficient cardiac sonographers, but who also have a passion for patients care, and a commitment to the delivery of services in rural and regional Australia.

Chosen applicants are employed in partnership with Queensland Cardiovascular Group. During their second year of training at QCG, students will work on a Heart Truck a few days a month. Upon graduation, the sonographers spend eight days per month for a minimum of two years as part of the cardiologist team at Heart of Australia. This future commitment directly supports the ongoing sonographer workforce sustainability for our services, and the communities we serve.

Heart of Australia, in partnership with the Queensland Cardiovascular Group, currently has a team of nine highly skilled cardiac sonographers. 

Our essential sonographer training program requires a significant investment of resources. In 2019, Medtronic Australasia approached us looking for a way to support the medical education of healthcare practitioners in training program associated with academic qualifications. We were thrilled to welcome Medtronic as a supporter. Medtronic’s funding contributes directly to the costs associated with training future cardiac sonographers. They are helping us to ensure cardiac sonography services will continue to be delivered to those living in rural and regional communities.

One of the team members currently undergoing cardiac sonography training is Lucas Nielsen.

Lucas joined the Heart of Australia team as a cardiac medical aide in March 2019. Having completed a Biomedical Science degree with the University of the Sunshine Coast, then working with the Sunshine Coast University Private Hospital as a cardiac scientist, he was ready for his next challenge. 

“I’ve been training in cardiac sonography since January 2020 after two and a half years as a cardiac technician and medical aide. I chose to enter the cardiac sonography field as it was a way to progress my career from an ECG technician to be more versatile as a cardiac technician. I also enjoy ultrasound and the type of work which is involved and how Heart of Australia can deliver it to the people who need it.

“The training through Queensland Cardiovascular Group has been excellent, and I have completed one course as part of a postgraduate diploma in cardiac ultrasound at QUT. I still have another two years of part-time study before being fully qualified, but I am enjoying the process.” Lucas said.

As cardiac sonographers are a vital piece of the Heart of Australia program, we are always looking to expand our team. If you would like to join the Heart of Australia program, please contact us.

We are grateful to Medtronic Australasia for their contribution to Heart of Australia. Their ongoing partnership ensures a team of fully qualified cardiac sonographers to be available to those living in rural and remote communities who otherwise may not have access to such services. If you would like to join Medtronic in supporting our Cardiac Sonography training program, please contact juanita@heartofaustralia.com 

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