“Nurse sonographers are nurses first, and then we have learned sonography,” explains Leslie Vermeersch, Fetal Therapy Co-ordinator at the Ontario Fetal Centre (OFC). “The role allows the nurse sonographer to combine ultrasound assessment of the baby, while also doing a psychosocial assessment of the mother. Sonography is another valuable tool in our nursing toolbox.”

Based at Mount Sinai Hospital, and in partnership with The Hospital for Sick Children, the OFC offers the most advanced care to some of the country’s highest-risk pregnancies. A cornerstone of the OFC is the interprofessional approach and world-renowned group of experts, including over 20 specialized fetal nurse sonographers – the largest team in Canada.

Patients might meet a nurse sonographer in the ambulatory care clinics, if they are admitted as a high-risk pregnancy inpatient, or in Labour and Delivery Triage. They provide diagnostic medical sonography (commonly known as ultrasound), using high-frequency sound waves to examine the developing fetus.

“We work in partnership with our patients and there is a transparency to our approach,” says Leslie. “Our scanning rooms have a secondary monitor for patients to watch the ultrasound while it occurs and a nurse sonographer explains to our patients in real-time what we are assessing.”

As a Magnet® hospital, Mount Sinai is committed to high-quality nursing practice. For nurses, Magnet recognition means empowerment and professional development. In addition to being Registered Nurses all of the OFC’s nurse sonographers are either certified or working towards certification by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography.

Ingrid Larsen, nurse sonographer, notes that patients and families benefit from the added expertise and the comfort of seeing a familiar face. “We’re often with our high-risk pregnancy patients for their entire journey, from the ambulatory clinic to their fetal procedure. This builds trust and helps our patients feel more comfortable with asking questions about their care. They’re better informed to make decisions for their families.”

During the pandemic, nurse sonographers have been called upon to provide prenatal ultrasound support in Mount Sinai’s Intensive Care Unit. Leslie and Ingrid say that while COVID-19 has brought many adjustments for the OFC team, their commitment to family-centred care remains the same.

“Our visitor policies may have changed but we still believe in caring for the whole family, and want to be supportive,” says Ingrid. “We are very dedicated to family-centred care and we welcome interactions with families, by encouraging partners to participate in the appointment virtually.”

To learn more about the team at the OFC, visit: https://www.ontariofetalcentre.ca/the-team/