Happy Scanning

With a self-confessed love of anatomy, Stephen Bird has built his ultrasound education business from years of surrounding himself with the best ultrasound minds and mentors, shaping his skills and knowledge as he went.  

 

Tell us about your sono background

 In 1989 I started my professional life as a qualified radiographer working at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which is a public hospital in the western suburbs of Adelaide. It did not take me long to become fascinated by the role sonographers were taking in the diagnostic decision-making process and the impact they were having on patient outcomes. I started studying for my general DMU that same year and completed that DMU in 1992. 

Soon after this I decided to go and work at an ultrasound only practice called the Diagnostic Ultrasound Centre (DUC). This decision was made so I could focus on ultrasound, and it gave me the opportunity to work with some outstanding sonographers who became my most important mentors. The great Pru Pratten was amongst a talented team that took me under their wings and inspired me. It was at this time that MSK ultrasound was just starting out and it became clear to me that an intricate knowledge of anatomy was going to be paramount to success. I still remember the DUC tearoom with a table covered in anatomy books and journal articles with all of us discussing new techniques and anatomy knowledge, learning together, and pushing each other along a path of discovery. 

It was during this time that I became interested in teaching ultrasound, and I took my first steps presenting at a local Australian Institute of Radiography branch meeting with a carousel of home-made slides.  From the first time I presented, it became obvious that the process of writing and presenting material is the best way to learn and refine your craft. That evening was the first in what has become well over 500 conference attendances to present lectures and live scanning workshops.

The DUC was eventually disbanded, and I moved to beautiful Mount Gambier to work as the chief radiographer and enjoyed the privilege of working with a young, dedicated and very talented radiologist David Donovan. David taught me more than he will ever know, and instilled in me that I must keep reading and keep learning as there is knowledge to be gained that you will only discover by reading, researching, and presenting. 

After a couple of years in Mount Gambier I was offered the Chief Sonographer position at Benson Radiology and returned to Adelaide. This role kept me busy for many years, and during this time I added a Vascular DMU and a Masters from Uni SA to my academic qualifications. 

 

How did you keep variety in your work?

I became deeply involved in honorary work through various professional associations. I enjoyed many positions including being a member of the federal council of ASA and ASUM as well as the chairman of the DMU board of examiners and chairman of the ASAR during a time when sonographers were being written into the Medicare Benefit Schedule legislation for the first time, legitimising and defining the profession of sonography for the first time. Honorary work on the boards and panels gave me wonderful access to the giants of my profession, helping me to build a network of colleagues and friends who I continue to rely upon.

In 2010 I felt the need to chase another fresh mentor and began 5 years of fly in fly out work at Canberra Specialist Ultrasound. This gave me the opportunity to work with some of the best practitioners of ultrasound in the country. Amongst them were Dr Wes Cormick, Rob McGregor, Lisa Hicks, Dan Walkley and others. It was the closest thing I had encountered to the halcyon days of discovery at the DUC. Wes would turn up at work each morning and throw a few articles at us that he had found overnight, typically from an obscure journal that only Wes could find and read. It was another time of great discovery and skill, development.

When Wes retired it was time to stay in Adelaide once again and continue my clinical practice and by this stage regular weekend teaching work in Australia and many countries throughout the world. It was a fun time, scanning a diverse case mix, then heading off on weekends to teach in some lovely locations.

 

 

How did Bird Ultrasound come to be?

Covid happened!

A combination of closed borders and a lack of local clinical work on offer had me effectively unemployed for the first time. The first couple of weeks were fun, but once the Tupperware cupboard and the third drawer down in the kitchen were spotless, I really needed a project to keep me busy.  My wife suggested “while you have free time, why don’t you write a book or build a website to keep yourself occupied” and the website was born.  Bird Ultrasound grew organically from many years of honorary lecturing at conferences. I had written and delivered lectures on so many topics I found myself with a grand collection of content. It was the wonderful Hsieng Foo-Sanderson from Perth Radiological Clinics (PRC) that first suggested to me that I should see if anyone was willing to hire me for weekend education seminars. This began at PRC, where it continues to this day and has grown ever since. Bird Ultrasound became an ultrasound education business with the capacity to deliver teaching material on most ultrasound topics.  Birdultrasound.com.au now has hundreds of hours of webinar material on just about every ultrasound topic you can think of. It has become my new passion with new material being written and recorded constantly. It has gathered a loyal following of subscribers who enjoy the material and generate discussion about how to do ultrasound better. Only about 30% of my existing lecture material is already on the website so it will continue to grow rapidly, becoming a repository of ultrasound knowhow which I hope can be enjoyed by sonographers and sonologists throughout the world.

This seems like a limitless project, and I am looking forward to continually adding fresh content for all to enjoy.

 

What does your work life look like at the moment?

My current work is a combination of three core elements that fit perfectly together. I spend most weekends away teaching ultrasound either to private customers or at major conferences. Monday and Tuesday I work on website and new lecture material, creating content, building schematics, and recording webinars. The rest of the week I spend in my clinical role where I scan a broad case mix that includes everything you can use ultrasound for, with the exception of adult echocardiograms. The broad case mix allows me to develop and try out new ideas and techniques I am working on for the teaching material.

 

 What lights your sono-fire?

My passion for ultrasound has not waned in the slightest. I still find myself excited about new knowledge and seeing people have their own light bulb moments when I am teaching.  The thing that still drives me most is the desire to provide each and every patient I see in my clinical practice with the best quality ultrasound they can receive and the most accurate and clinically relevant diagnosis.   It has been 100% about my patients and trying my best to improve their outcomes. As I walk into work today, go to the waiting room, call a name, walk to the ultrasound room, and close the door, the only thing that is important in that closed room is the patient.  It makes the job simple and a privilege to be a part of.

 

What advice would you give to a sono considering a side-hustle?

Go for it! I have had the privilege of having many great clinical jobs over my career and each time I have moved jobs it has been to chase new knowledge and work with a new mentor. The more exposure you have to different workplaces, individuals, equipment and case mix diversity, the better off you will be. Each professional experience you embark on will add to your professional development and ensure you never become stale. Keep exploring, keep learning and most importantly keep enjoying the greatest of all jobs as an accredited medical sonographer.

 

 

 

 

Stephen is a general sonographer with well over 30 years of clinical experience. He holds a General and a Vascular Diploma of Medical Ultrasound (DMU) and a Masters of Medical Sonography from the University of South Australia.

He has a strong commitment to advancing the best practice of ultrasound around the world.

In 2002 Stephen received the Australian Sonographers Association (ASA) Pru Pratten Memorial Sonographer Achievement Award. In 2008 he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Australasian Society for Ultrasound in Medicine (ASUM). In 2022 he was made a Life Member of the Australian Sonographers Association (ASA).

Bird Ultrasound is both a pay per course and subscription based resource for all health professional utilising diagnostic ultrasound.  In addition to the wide range of courses available, Stephen offers downloadable notes, CPD certificates, a members only discussion forum and additonal tips, tricks and articles.

 

 

FYI…There is no monetary exchange for any of the content in our blog or newsletters. We simply like to spread the word about interesting people, places and opportunities in the sono-world.