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Ultrasonography for rheumatologists: the development of specific competency based educational outcomes
  1. A K Brown1,
  2. P J O’Connor2,
  3. T E Roberts3,
  4. R J Wakefield1,
  5. Z Karim1,
  6. P Emery1
  1. 1Academic Unit of Musculoskeletal Disease, University of Leeds, Chapel Allerton Hospital, Leeds, UK
  2. 2Department of Radiology, Leeds General Infirmary
  3. 3Medical Education Unit, School of Medicine, University of Leeds
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr Andrew K Brown
    Lecturer in Rheumatology, Academic Unit of Musculoskeletal Disease, University of Leeds, Chapel Allerton Hospital, Leeds LS7 4SA, UK; andrewkbrown{at}


Background: A competency based approach to the education of rheumatologists in musculoskeletal ultrasonography (MSK US) ensures standards are documented, transparent, accountable, and defensible, with clear benefit to all stakeholders. Specific competency outcomes will facilitate informed development of a common curriculum and structured programme of training and assessment.

Objective: To determine explicit competency based learning outcomes for rheumatologists undertaking MSK US.

Methods: International experts in MSK US, satisfying specific selection criteria, were asked to define the minimum standards required by a rheumatologist to be judged competent in MSK US. They reviewed 115 MSK US skills, comprising bone and soft tissue pathology, in seven joints regions of the upper and lower limbs, and rated their relative importance according to specific criteria. These data are presented as specific educational outcomes within designated competency categories.

Results: 57 expert MSK US practitioners were identified and 35 took part in this study. Ten generic core competency outcomes were recognised including physics, anatomy, technique, and interpretation. Regarding specific regional competencies, 53% (61/115) were considered “must know” core learning outcomes, largely comprising inflammatory joint/tendon/bone pathology and guided procedures; 45% (52/115) were required at an intermediate/advanced level (18/115 “should know”, 34/115 “could know”), and 2% (2/115) were deemed inappropriate/unnecessary for rheumatologist ultrasonographers.

Conclusions: This is the first study to developing a competency model for the education of rheumatologists in MSK US based on the evidence of international experts. A specific set of learning outcomes has been defined, which will facilitate future informed education and practice development and provide a blueprint for a structured rheumatology MSK US curriculum and assessment process.

  • MSK US, musculoskeletal ultrasonography
  • competency
  • rheumatologist
  • training
  • ultrasonography

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  • Published Online First 28 September 2005