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What Do Ultrasound Technicians Do

What Do Ultrasound Technicians Do?

On The Job Information For Ultrasound Careers - 2017

For students looking for a long-term career in healthcare, in a fast growing field, it only makes sense to consider ultrasound training. Of course, one of your first questions about this field is likely—What do ultrasound techs actually do?

Properly known as diagnostic medical technicians or sonographers, these professionals use sound wave technology that produces digital images. These images help sonography techs and physicians track the development of a fetus, spot tumors or other trouble spots in the human body, and take a closer look at internal structures and functions like circulation.

So, what do sonographers do – and where do they work?

ultrasound tech in scrubs at computer in doctors office

There are several types of ultrasound technicians that work in a variety of healthcare facilities, from hospitals to physicians' offices to mobile laboratories. That's another benefit of working in this field of healthcare…

Not only are there opportunities across the nation for professionals who meet the ultrasound technician requirements, but there are full-time and part-time positions available in a huge variety of settings.

Keep in mind…

The hours may be irregular, depending on where you work. But that goes along with working in the field of healthcare in general. For many professionals, the salary, benefits and job security make up for any sacrifices you have to make to work in the healthcare industry.

How Can You Learn More About Sonography Tech Careers?

Our main priority is helping you understand your options for ultrasound technician training. We have connections with schools and e-campuses across the nation to help students like you meet the training requirements for sonography. We also have tips to help you pass your examinations and register with the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS).

If you are ready to see what options you have in your area for training, simply use the search box on this page to choose your state or the specialty you are interested in. Once you see the schools in your area, your next step is requesting information so you can compare their programs and make the right choice for you.

But--Before you go, let's outline the basics…

What Is Ultrasound Technology?

In a nutshell, ultrasound technology refers to the use of high-frequency sound waves to capture real-time imagery of the organs, arteries and other components of the human body. If you have seen the movies or TV shows where the character who is pregnant is looking at the images of her fetus on a screen, then you know what ultrasound technology is.

Sonography techs use a tool called a transducer. It is a wand-like piece of equipment that emits the sound waves that eventually result in an image on the screen.

One nice thing about being an ultrasound tech is that the medical interventions you will perform don't cause any pain, emit radiation or harm the patient in any way. That is the main reason why physicians are replacing old methods, such as some kinds of X-rays with ultrasound technology. And this switch is another contributing factor to the growth of diagnostic medical technology in healthcare.

Ultrasound technology isn't just used to track the development of pregnancy. Patients see sonographers for a variety of reasons, including breast exams (to clarify the results of a mammogram), abdominal exams, to see how well blood is flowing, and to track blockages in arteries that could lead to death.

What Are The Day to Day Job Duties of a Sonography Technician?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does a good job of spelling out the job functions for ultrasound technicians, and answering the question "What do sonographers do?"

Here is a summary of what your job duties may consist of in this role:

  • Get patients ready for the procedures, which includes taking a brief medical history, and compiling any information that may be relevant to the procedure.
  • You will need to have a strong understanding of the equipment and tools you will use to execute these procedures. It will be your responsibility to prepare this equipment for the procedure.
  • Ultrasound technicians must work hard in their training to learn how to perform the procedures on their own--without the assistance of a physician or fellow sonographer.
  • Once you obtain the imagery, you will need to conduct the initial analysis of the image to inform the physician of your findings. Physicians will rely on you to give them the best information about the images, to save them time and deliver the best care. If you see something that is an emergency, you are responsible for passing this information along quickly.
  • Understand how to track the findings from the sonograms to make sure your records are organized and easily reviewed by the physician, and answer any questions the patient might have.

There is one more essential role you'll play…

What Do Ultrasound Technicians Do To Reduce Patient Anxiety?

Another quality you will need to possess is adept interpersonal skills that include compassion for your patients. When they come to your office, or you go to their hospital room, you will be the one who holds their hand and puts your patient's anxiety at ease. It is important to pay attention to the lessons from your mentors and teachers in this area of care.

How Do Ultrasound Technicians Further Their Education?

You should also look to join any healthcare professional organization that you can. These can help you keep up with the latest findings and best practices in the field of diagnostic medical sonography and ultrasound technologist skills.

The Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS) is probably the top recommended organization when you are just starting out. This is the largest association of medical sonographers in the world, boasting over 27,000 members. They have all sorts of resources available for professionals, including a job board, lists of clinical standards, guidelines, and other helpful information about ultrasound technician requirements.

Do I Need To Be Certified To Be An Ultrasound Tech?

What Do Ultrasound Technicians Do to Register With The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography

Through The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography

(ARDMS), the official exam agency for the field of sonography, you can become certified in several areas.

First you can become registered as a RDMS (registered diagnostic medical sonographer) by passing the SPI (sonography principled and instrumentation examination) exam. When you pass these exams, you can take the following corresponding specialty examinations: abdomen, breast, fetal echocardiography, obstetrics and gynecology, and pediatric sonography.

Next, you can become RDCS (registered diagnostic cardiac sonographer) registered by passing the SPI exam, plus the following corresponding specialty examinations: adult echocardiography, fetal echocardiography, and pediatric echocardiography.

RVT (registered vascular sonographers) need to pass the SPI exam, and can take the vascular technology specialty exam to become certified in that area.

RMSKS (registered musculoskeletal sonographers) needs to pass the SPI exam, and can take the musculoskeletal sonographer examination to be certified.

If, after reading this, you're still wondering…what do sonographers do to meet their ultrasound technician requirements?

The simple answer is: A lot…and it's worth it!

What Types of Sonography Jobs Are Out There in 2017?

Professionals who use sonography, or ultrasound, equipment can be divided into two main categories. It's good to understand these distinctions before discussing the roles for sonography techs within each category.

First, we will talk about the types of diagnostic medical sonographer jobs. Then we will talk about cardiovascular technologists and technician jobs that you can pursue with sonography training.

Diagnostic Medical Sonographers

This type of work specializes in capturing images of organs and body tissue when health problems are being figured out. Here are the most common medical sonographer specialty areas:

female sonographer with patient
  • Abdominal
  • Breast
  • Musculoskeletal
  • Pediatric
  • Obstetric and gynecology

As you can see, there are several types of medical offices, physician offices and laboratories that could use the help of a trained medical sonographer.

The second type of sonography career route is specifically in the cardiovascular realm. This means, having to do with the heart and ciruculation.

So, let' look at the types of cardiovascular technologists that use sonography technology to answer the question "What do ultrasound technicians do in these roles?"

These sonographers use ultrasound technology to capture images related to the heart, veins and arteries. If you are working at a hospital, you might help doctors prepare for open-heart surgery, heart catheterizations or other types of procedures.

Cardiac sonographers. These ultrasound techs focus on the heart chambers, producing ultrasound images called echocardiograms.

Cardiovascular invasive specialists. These professionals help monitor heart rates and assist with catheterization. These specialists may also help prep patients for heart surgery.

Vascular sonographers. These professionals use sonography equipment to capture images of blood vessels, to help doctors understand what is going on with a patient's blood flow.

What Do Ultrasound Technicians Do To Prepare For Successful Careers?

In many sonography training programs, you can spend between 1-2 years in clinical training – about 18 months is average from what we've seen. Some ultrasound schools will help you find clinical experiences in several types of work environments. This way, you can learn what it's like to work in hospitals, physician's offices, and other settings that perform sonography work.

When you perform your clinical hours, be sure to absorb as much information and knowledge from your peers and physicians as possible. Also pay attention to how the office is managed, how sonographers interact with administrative staff and patients. You are there to hone your skills – and develop professional skills that will make you more effective and part of the culture your office needs to deliver compassionate care. And be sure to ask as many questions as you feel necessary.

Remember…

Your journey started with a simple question:  'What do ultrasound techs do?' and now you can prove that you can do it with the right training. Remember, one day it will just be you in the office, performing the ultrasound techniques that doctors rely on for patient care.

What Other Careers Can Ultrasound Techs Pursue?

Once you meet the 2017 ultrasound technician requirements, you might decide to expand your skillset into new areas, or seek promotions that lead to management positions. Some sonographers also have nursing education in mind for the future, so they can qualify for more positions.

Having more skills can only make you more attractive to employers…

You might also go from your bachelor's education to a graduate program that focuses on leadership. This type of degree can help you lead organizations and mange workers effectively. You might also pursue a role in public policy or work for a private company that develops products or services for healthcare customers.

What Does the Future Look Like for Sonography Techs?

This is where the prospects of becoming a sonographer become really exciting. Not only do you get to work daily to show compassion for others and deliver high quality care, you also get to enter a field with a strong employment forecast. The BLS projects large growth for diagnostic medical sonography careers, at least through 2024.

Think about this, the current average for occupational growth is 7% for all occupations combined.

But the 2017 job growth estimates for ultrasound technicians is much higher – 26%.

That is almost four times the national average! If you needed a reason to feel secure about your prospects in this type of occupation, that should help you feel better.

We anticipate seeing a lift in states across the nation, since healthcare facilities are needed everywhere. The top states for employment of sonographers are California, Florida, New York, Texas and Pennsylvania. You can also see that the salaries have quite a range, but settle in for a national average of $70,880 (BLS, 2017).

What Are The Most Rewarding Things About Working In Healthcare?

In addition to understanding what ultrasound techs do, people want to know what kinds of personal benefits they can receive from sonography careers. If you have a natural interest in the sciences and enjoy working with people, you could make a good ultrasound technicians.

With the right training, like courses that deal with physics, ethics, the human anatomy, and labs that prepare you to perform an assortment of sonography tests, you can get started.

No matter how much training you receive, you can't teach someone empathy and compassion for others—these are qualities you should already possess. If you are a helper and someone who is moved to do good for others, you will find ultrasound tech work can be extremely rewarding in this aspect. It's not quite as intense as nursing or medicine, but offers the patient and family interaction that can be professionally satisfying.

You can use this document about the benefits and outcomes of Compassionate care enhancement that was published by the International Journal of Person Centered Medicine to learn more about this aspect of the profession. This review backs up the theory that compassionate care can deliver better outcomes for patients, and help doctors and nurses perform better in their roles as well.

If you are truly passionate about helping others and think you would be a natural fit as an ultrasound technician, then what are you waiting for?

Are You Ready to Learn More About Ultrasound Technician Requirements?

Get Started With A Sonography Training Program!

If this career in healthcare sounds like an appealing opportunity for you, it's time to take the next step and contact schools that offer training for students in your area. That's where we come in.

We are dedicated to helping students in all fifty states locate the best training that works with their schedule and aligns with their career goals.

If you still want to know more about what sonographers do, just use the search box on this page to narrow down the options for training in your state.

Then request information to compare courses, timelines for completion, tuition costs, financial aid options, and opportunities for clinical training.

Good luck on your journey towards an ultrasound technician career!

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