Danielle Lucky is passionate about helping people. It’s why she loves working in the Emergency department (ED) – where people come when they need help the most. When a patient walks into the ED, providing them with the care they need, as fast as possible, is crucial.

This year, Danielle became the first physician assistant (PA) in Canada to undergo formal training in advanced point-of-care ultrasound (POCUS). At Scarborough Health Network (SHN) an innovative new program geared towards expanding the use of POCUS, is training highly skilled PAs, like Danielle, to do just that.

Danielle and her fellow PAs work within multi-disciplinary teams to provide a broad range of medical services including patient histories, physical examinations, and ordering and performing appropriate diagnostic tests and procedures. The PAs work with SHN physicians with a high degree of autonomy and their role continues to grow as their training and knowledge expand.

When an opportunity to expand her skills to include using POCUS to help diagnose Emergency patients came around, Danielle couldn’t wait to be involved.

Introduced in 2016, SHN’s Emergency Ultrasound Fellowship program trains emergency physicians and PAs in advanced POCUS and improves care for patients.

Using POCUS machines helps health care professionals make quick diagnoses right at the patient’s bedside, ensuring rapid diagnoses and course of treatment. POCUS allows PAs to conduct an ultrasound wherever the patient needs it.

“Expanding the fellowship program helps grow the PA profession in Canada,” explained Danielle. “Being able to support patients at the bedside, resulting in less wait times and better patient centred care, is important to me.”

Spearheaded by one of SHN’s emergency physicians, the program is helping shape the future of emergency care.

Dr. Jeffrey Shih, the Emergency Ultrasound Fellowship program director at SHN, has trained emergency physicians in advanced POCUS skills since 2016. He immediately saw the benefits of expanding the program to include PAs.

“PAs bring an immense value to physicians in our Emergency department, by supporting our clinical work and providing high quality patient-centred care – something I see first-hand.”

“Our goal for the physician assistants who complete the program is to generate high quality ultrasound images for the physicians they work with, allowing for more productive, efficient, and patient-centered care,” explained Dr. Shih.

The program has been a success and is expanding.

Last June, Danielle and Dr. Shih introduced PA students at the University of Toronto to the fellowship program and the basic principles of ultrasound. In addition, the program has sparked interest internationally. In late 2019, Dr. Shih and Danielle presented this unique PA Ultrasound Program at the 10th Annual Mediterranean Emergency Medicine Congress in Dubrovnik, Croatia hosted by the American Academy of Emergency Medicine.

“We had a lot of interest and discussion among emergency physicians from around the world, some who had never heard of PAs and some who work with PAs and see the utility that would come with advanced point-of-care ultrasound skills,” explained Dr. Shih.

“By adapting the Emergency Ultrasound Fellowship program at SHN to train physician assistants, we will continue our reputation of being trailblazers in the fields of emergency ultrasound, teaching, and physician assistant education.”

Learn more about SHN’s Emergency departments.