Healthcare has grown over the decades to become a very sophisticated, technology-driven business, where there is a lot of scope for trained medical technicians. One such role that has come into prominence over the last 20-30 years is that of a sonographer, and this article gives you some guidance on how you can become one.
Among various testing and diagnostic procedures used in the medical field, ultrasonography or sonography machines use high-frequency sound waves to scan the patient’s body and images created by the ultrasound sonograph, which help physicians make a diagnosis. These machines are operated by sonographers. More about sonographers and their work is described in the sections which follow…
Sonographers are trained medical technicians whose job involves preparing patients for undergoing ultrasound scans, using the sonograph to record images of the internal bodyscape. Activities carried out by sonographers and the various areas of specialization are listed below.
- Prepare patients for diagnostic testing using invasive and non-invasive procedures as required;
- Chart accurate medical history and patient information;
- Conduct diagnostic testing as per prescribed procedures and record results; review and analyze the technical data obtained and convert it into a report which is reviewed by the sonographer and then the rest of the medical team, involved in the case;
- Other activities may include scheduling, maintenance and archival of records and depending upon number of years in service and work experience, managerial or supervisory activities.
Areas of specialization
- Abdominal sonography
- Breast examination and imaging
- Opthalmological sonography
- Vascular technology
- High school diploma or approved GED equivalent is the basic minimum qualification, with a foundation in science and math, but completing an associate (2-years) or graduate (4-years) degree is recommended, from the viewpoint of career growth and compensation received. Degree subjects include physics, biology, algebra and communication.
- Gain certification/accreditation by completing any programs prescribed by the Commission on Accreditation for Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP); these programs run for 1-4 years, depending upon the course and specialty covered – certificate (1 year), associate (2 years) and baccalaureate (4 years).
Technical skills and standards
- Physical fitness since the job requires frequent lifting of heavy objects, pulling and pushing, bending and standing for most of the work period;
- Distinguish sounds and images clearly, have full mobility and use of limbs – hands and legs;
- Follow established procedure and policy in diagnostic testing and imaging;
- Have an empathetic disposition and deal with patients in a friendly and caring manner.
- Other skills include critical and analytical thought, communication and people management, enhanced perception, etc.
- Registration and licensing policy is created and implemented by the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS), which prescribes the minimum training and certification requirements for working as a trained medical sonographer. The official web site of the ARDMS can be found at www.ardms.org.
- The CAAHEP (www.caahep.org) lists programs approved for certification and accreditation for sonographers.
- General curriculum for certification should include:
- General and applied sciences in physics and biology streams;
- Clinical medicine and patient care;
- Diagnostic testing and imaging protocols and procedures;
- Ultrasound applications and theory;
- Instrumentation and technology standards and processes.
With the following information in hand you can begin exploring career options, since the essentials of becoming a professional medical sonographer are now known to you.