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Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

The medical industry offers a wealth of different opportunities and probably one of the best opportunities is to become an ultrasound technician. Ultrasound technicians or “diagnostic medical sonographers” as they are sometimes called in the medical industry, are among the higher salaried specialties and as an sonographer you will also enjoy a challenging and interesting job.

Ultrasound technicians are specially trained to use specialized equipment that utilizes sound waves and echos to generate images of the inside of a human body.

Diagnostic Medical Sonography

Diagnostic imaging is an important tool for diagnosing medical ailments. Some of the most familiar procedures for diagnostic imaging are the x-ray and the MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging. However, an x-ray machine uses ionizing radiation and an MRI uses a powerful magnetic field and radio frequency fields. Both of these types of diagnostic imaging techniques have some risks to the patient. There is, however, another diagnostic imaging technique that is much safer and very effective.

Sonography or ultrasonography uses sound waves to generate an image for the diagnosis and assessment of medical conditions. It is used in almost every medical specialty including cardiac care and anesthesiology while the most well-known use of ultrasounds is in obstetrics where ultrasound technology is used to create images of an unborn baby.

What do Ultrasound Technicians do

Diagnostic medical sonographers or ultrasound technicians use specialized equipment that directs high frequency sound waves into different areas of the patient’s body. The ultrasound technician operates the equipment, which in turn collects the reflected echoes which can then be used to form an image. This image may then be videotaped, transmitted, or photographed for interpretation and diagnosis by a physician.

The ultrasound technician or sonographer typically begins by explaining the procedure to the patient and asking pertinent questions regarding any medical history that may be relevant to the condition being viewed. They will then adjust the equipment settings to get the best image and direct the patient to the positions that will provide the best view. The sonographer will then use a transducer that is connected to the ultrasound machine. The transducer transmits sound waves in a cone-shaped or rectangular-shaped beam into the body. Most often they will use a special gel on the skin of the patient that will aid in the transmission of sound waves, however, techniques will vary depending upon the area of the body that is being examined.

The Job Description of an Ultrasound Technician

The services provided by them are broad and they range from examining the health of unborn babies to viewing the soft organs of the body for complications. Ultrasound technology can also be used on the skeletal and nervous systems. The first duty of a technician is to prepare the patient by explaining the procedure. The ultrasound machine must then have the settings adjusted for the situation so that the patient’s body can be effectively assessed. The technician must study the images that are being created and move the ultrasound wand in such as way as to find the critical areas so they can be analyzed. They must also keep a record of test results and submit them to physicians for any further diagnostic procedures.

Requirements To Become An Ultrasound Technician

To become one you will need to have a high school diploma or its equivalent. It is helpful to have an educational background in biology, medical terminology and physics. An associates degree or certification in diagnostic medical sonography from an accredited college or university is also required. The certificate program for ultrasound technology is typically a one-year program, however, this is for people who have already worked in the medical care industry. If you have never worked in the medical industry previously you can choose a two-year certification program from a specialized ultrasound technician school.

There are some hospitals who offer training and certificate programs for ultrasound technicians however, these are generally reserved for their own employees who want to move up in the field. After you receive your associates degree you can continue your education by entering a specialized field of ultrasound technology such as echocardiography or you can continue your education and complete the four-year bachelors programs. The higher your educational qualifications the better chances you will have for securing a good job and earning a higher salary.

In all of the courses and degree programs you will learn about the field of ultrasonography and you will also be required to fulfill a significant clinical requirement where you will have on the job training under a working ultrasound technician, much like an apprentice program. This will help prepare you for on-the-job challenges and it will help you to learn how to deal with actual patients and the actual equipment.

Most states do not require a license to practice to be an ultrasound technician, however, many employers will require registration with the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography or the ARDMS. In order to be registered with this organization you will have to prove your knowledge and skill by passing the exam from the registry. In order to be a professional ultrasound technician it also helps to be in good physical condition as this job requires long hours of standing as you conduct the ultrasound procedure repeatedly throughout the day.

An ultrasound technician may choose to specialize in certain fields like obstetrics, breast sonography, neurosonograpy, echocardiography and more.

Medical Diagnostic Sonography

As the sonographer conducts the exam he or she can view the area within the body that is being examined on a screen. There they can identify subtle visual cues that will allow them to contrast healthy areas compared with unhealthy areas. They then make a decision on the best images for diagnostic purposes to give to the physician. They also take specific measurements, calculate values and analyze the results of the tests for preliminary findings for the physician.

Ultrasound technicians or sonographers work directly with patients but they are also responsible for keeping patient records and maintaining and adjusting the ultrasound equipment. There may be other duties that they will be responsible for especially if they work in a designated diagnostic imaging department.

There are many specialties within the field of diagnostic sonography. Of course, one of the most popular is obstetrics as seeing images of unborn babies will always be fun and exciting. There is also gynecologic sonography, which shows images of the female reproductive system, abdominal sonography, which would cover images of the entire abdominal area including the liver, the kidneys, the gallbladder, the spleen, the pancreas and the malereproductive system. Neurosonography takes images of the brain and other parts of the nervous system. Breast sonography is used to take images of the breast. Vascular sonographers and cardiac sonographers are covered under a cardiac specialty called echocardiography.

Sonographers usually find work in such places as hospitals, clinics, diagnostic centers and doctor’s offices. Typically the diagnostic procedures are conducted in darkened rooms but they can also be performed at a patient’s bedside. They usually spend a great deal of their days on their feet conducting ultrasound testing and they may be required to lift and turn patients in order to get the best readings. Therefore, they should be in fairly good physical condition with the strength to lift patients and do what is necessary.

Diagnostic Medical Sonography Jobs

While some sonographers may find work with one employer, others may work as an independent contractor, traveling to different healthcare facilities in the area. There are also mobile imaging service provider that travel to patients and use mobile diagnostic imaging equipment.

The majority of full-time sonographers will work 40 hours per week with possible overtime. Occasionally you will need to be on call for evening and weekend hours when they may have to report to work on short notice. This may be especially true in cases where ultrasound technology is used in emergency medicine but also in the obstetrics field, of course, because babies can arrive at any time of the night or day.

There are many ways to get into the field of medical sonography. It may even be possible in some instances to find work as an assistant and apprentice in the field. The most common way to get into the field is to complete a course of formal education. Most employers prefer applicants who have been specifically trained in the field. Completion of an accredited program is the most efficient way to get into the field.

A large portion of the education for an ultrasound technician is hands-on. It is important to learn how to use the equipment and get a feel for the images that will arise. Many of the images may show very subtle differences and the ultrasound technician will need to be able to learn to see these subtle variations.

Diagnostic Medical Sonography Schools

Sonographers may train in various hospitals, diagnostic centers, vocational-technical schools, colleges, diagnostic medical sonography schools and the Armed Forces. A high school diploma or equivalent is required and a background in science, mathematics and health is preferred.

Colleges and Universities offer both a 2 year associates program or a 4 year bachelors program. Two year programs are the most common. There are also a few 1 year programs that offer a vocational certificate. These programs are generally for people who are already working in the healthcare field.

The job outlook for ultrasound technicians is generally favorable as this technology is continuously being expanded for use in the many different fields of medicine. The employment of highly trained and qualified ultrasound technicians is expected to increase by as much as 18 percent through the year 2018.

Filed in: Ultrasound Technician, Ultrasound Technician Career

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