The day I decided to become a sonographer, was the day I chose to be a life-long learner.
As my career has grown beyond holding that ultrasound probe myself to educating others to do the same, designing educational curriculum and providing consulting services in other medical fields, my drive to continue to learn more about sonography never leaves me.
Sonography is not just ‘taking pictures of babies’. Every time I touch an ultrasound probe to human skin, I am able to help create the road map to that patient’s ultimate diagnosis. Sometimes that is a “normal” diagnosis, and sometimes it is a possible “pathological” diagnosis. The reward for me is learning each time what that image’s story tells.
Understanding that my small role as a sonographer plays a part in the quality of life for others means so much!
What does a Sonographer do?
A diagnostic medical sonographer or ultrasound technologist is a skilled professional who uses ultrasound equipment to “look inside” the human body to help find out what may be affecting a patient.
Their role is to obtain relevant and accurate images that will give specialist physicians, called radiologists, the best clues into what could be affecting each patient. And while sonographers do not diagnose, they have a very important role in the diagnostic process. Some liken it to detective work; if you know what normal anatomy looks like on an ultrasound screen, then you can recognize when you see something abnormal. Then you need to take the very best images of what you’ve found, from different angles, to assist the physician with the diagnosis.
A sonographer’s typical responsibilities include:
- talking with patients to identify and clarify their symptoms and to keep them informed during the procedure
- setting up and adjusting the ultrasound equipment to ensure good quality, accurate diagnostic images are obtained
- using ultrasound equipment to perform the sonography procedure
- working with the patient to obtaining the best quality sonographic images they can to assist the physician with the medical diagnosis
- analyzing ultrasound images for clarity and accuracy and assessing patient information
- documenting technical findings from each examination for the physician to use in medical diagnosis
- working with physicians and other health care providers
- continuous learning in the field of practice.
What are the career opportunities?
Ultrasound technology is used widely right around the world and the equipment itself is always evolving, making it increasingly more effective and able to be used for new applications. Sonograms are often preferred over invasive techniques and over imaging techniques that involve radiation in order to minimize patient risk, where possible, and also to save on costs.
The employment opportunities for qualified diagnostic medical sonographers, ultrasound technologists, echocardiographers, cardiovascular technologists, and vascular technologists are forecast to continue growing in the future in both urban and rural areas. For example, in the USA, the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment for sonographers will grow 19 percent from 2018 to 2028, much faster than the average for all occupations.
Sonographers can choose to work in a variety of clinical settings such as hospitals, specialist imaging centers, clinics, physicians’ offices, public health facilities, and laboratories. As a sonographer gains more experience, they can take advantage of career opportunities in management, teaching, and research. Other people may choose to move into medical device companies to take on a role such as application specialist, sales consultant, or technical advisor.
How to learn sonography
A formal sonography education program is usually two years long. Some are run at traditional colleges and schools, with classroom lectures and lab time where students scan special ultrasound mannequins and each other. Other programs are set up for distance learning, where the student studies online from home through the education institution and works with a local clinical site in order to get hands-on experience.
SIMTICS offers self-study resources for learning how to perform different types of ultrasound examinations through highly effective web-based simulations. This is a perfect way to speed up learning as a beginner, and to prepare for lab sessions and clinicals so can you get more out of your face-to-face time. You can also use SIMTICS to keep skills fresh over time, and also go back to practice a type of scan that was covered earlier in the program. A certificate of completion is available on achievement of the minimum criteria.
SIMTICS simulation-based modules can be easily incorporated into a school’s curriculum, regardless of the program format: on-ground, hybrid/blended or fully online. SIMTICS can also be used by individual learners to supplement their formal academic studies or to enable them to refresh their procedural skills online.
For more information about SIMTICS online study resources to learn ultrasound scanning, here are some relevant links:
- If you are a sonographer or sonography student, check out the SIMTICS sonography page
- Or if you are in a related field or education program such as medicine, nursing or obstetric nursing, go to the SIMTICS medical ultrasound page instead
- An article about an ultrasound technologist working in a remote area who uses SIMTICS regularly to keep her skills fresh
- An article about Washburn University, which uses SIMTICS as a key part of their sonography distance learning programs
- SDMS article “So you want to be a Sonographer?”
Article edited 11-Oct-2019 to include latest job growth figures from BLS.gov