Considering a career in sonography? Then prepare yourself for a lifetime of rewarding experiences. An ultrasound technician plays a pivotal role in the medical field, and specialists in nearly every medium of the field rely on these technicians for their skill and accuracy in finding abnormalities in patients that could potentially be life threatening. While some patients may have restrictions with some diagnostic procedures such as MRIs, CT Scans, and dyes, an ultrasound is a safe method of diagnostic practice that can be used on any patient; therefore, every doctor counts on their patients ultrasound results as a guide to further investigate or determine their patients needs for short- or long-term care.
A Day in the Life of a Technician
You might be asking yourself what an ultrasound technician actually does. Also known as a diagnostic medical sonographer, a technician is responsible for detecting abnormalities in patients using special equipment that operates on high frequency sound waves. The handheld device that transmits these waves is called a “transducer,” and the live image appears on a screen. The technician manipulates this image in various settings as they maneuver the transducer over the area/organ being diagnosed. Each setting consists of a type of measurement or view the sonographer can record and take photographs of for the doctor to examine.
While the work may often be performed in a dark room, and may come across as repetitive, rest assured that every patient is unique, proving a job in sonography to be a uniquely challenging career that requires a person with great accuracy and attention to detail. There’s nothing more rewarding than finding something that someone may have otherwise missed. In addition to these technical skills, great interpersonal skills and patience are required for this career. It’s important to remember that many patients don’t want to be in their current situation, and you may find yourself dealing with anxious patients. Being friendly and comforting, yet remaining neutral so as not to give the wrong impression over results that are to be read to the patient by their doctor only, is vital. You’ll also need to be comfortable asking the patient to move around during the procedure in order to obtain the best possible image. At times, you may need to assist the patient in moving.
Work Environment and Salary
As mentioned above, technicians work in dim rooms, as they maximize the visibility on screen. A career in sonography generally means working an autonomous job. You may spend the day working alone with various patients. Depending on the situation, you may call in another technician for a second look, or the doctor/specialist may be in the room for certain cases. Regular business hours are kept for prescheduled procedures, while some may be required to work during off hours such as emergency, weekends, and holidays. Ultrasounds are performed at hospitals, outpatient clinics, and private clinics, and the hours correspond to the department or clinic’s needs.
Salaries vary by state, but the statistics for 2013 average a salary of $65,000. Starting salaries are lower, ranging in the 40K per year to higher salaries of 80K and up. While the state you work in is a factor, bear in mind that where you are working (in a hospital, doctor’s office, private clinic, etc.) and your specialized field play a role in your salary as well. While some technicians may perform general ultrasounds, sonographers may specialize in gynecology, cardiac health, neurology, etc. And it doesn’t stop there. Take cardiac health, for example. Imagine working with the heart, a very complex organ as is, and then working with congenital heart defect patients, with anatomies that have yet to be interpreted in the medical field. As a result, and depending on how specialized a technician might like to become, the salary will range with it.
In recent years, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a growth in the demand for Ultrasound Technician and Sonographers of nearly forty-four percent over the next ten years due to the popularity, ease, and portability functions of the procedures.
Education, Certification, and Training
A high school degree/equivalent is required before entering any accredited training program. Some students may prefer to earn a four-year bachelor degree or a two-year college training program, and some may only require a one-year certificate if they have previous healthcare experience/education. Certification is required and can be obtained during an educational program, or through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS), which is internationally recognized. Searching for an educational institution you would like to attend locally or out of state is fine, but be sure to confirm that the school is accredited and recognized by the ARDMS or the American Registry of Radiological Technologists (ARRT). A student obtaining their certification should register with these organizations.
Training takes place at the educational program of choice, along with extra weeks to months of training that is conducted on the job by a more experienced technician or physician. However, realistically, in this field the training never stops. Technicians need to keep themselves up to date with the latest technology, medical advances, and methods in their field as it is constantly growing, changing, and striving to improve.
The time it takes to become a technician/sonographer varies. It may take anywhere from two to eight years depending on your current educational background, experience, on-the-job training, and the level of certification you’re looking to achieve.
A wonderful resource site for information related to the field of sonography and becoming an ultrasound technician is www.eultrasoundtechnician.com. With the endless possibilities of ultrasound fields to specialize in, locations to work, a great salary, and a growing demand for sonographers, the research into the kind of educational avenue one would like to take to achieve their goals is worth the time. It’s a great time to consider a career in this field, as it’s an industry where one gets to help others, has an opportunity for growth, and can keep up with the latest technological trends.