Part of the job description of a sonographer is to perform and interpret ultrasound procedures. In this case, a sonographer is charged with the responsibility of gathering sonographic data to assist the physician make the correct disease diagnosis (Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography a, 2013). To do so, sonographers first obtain and review the history of a patient. This is with a view to aiding in the achievement of optimum diagnostic results. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011), the sonographer performs suitable procedures, in addition to recording pathological, physiological, and/or anatomical data. Again, this is intended to facilitate interpretation of the same by the physician. Besides recording sonographic data, a sonographer also processes other important observations that they are likely to make while conducting procedures. This enables the physician to interpret the information accordingly. Moreover, a sonographer should always exercise judgment and discretion while undertaking sonographic services (BCIT, 2013). They should also offer patient education on medical ultrasound, as well as play a leading role in promoting principles of good health.
Before a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer can be allowed to practice in this profession, he/she must first attain the relevant clinical, academic, and professional credentials. This will enable him/her to offer diagnostic patient care services. In terms of scope of practice, a Diagnostics Medical Sonographer is required to perform acts, processes, and procedures permitted by law (ARRT, 2013). It is important to note that part of the job descriptions of diagnostic medical sonographers is that they should only undertake procedures for which they have been certified. Sonographers must also demonstrate competency in their profession of choice, in addition to also having completed the suitable certification normally regarded as the professional standard.
Education and Certification
There are multiple paths through which one can enter into the diagnostic medical sonography profession. Although employers accept diagnostic medical sonographers who have received training in sonography, education in the same field, or even a combination of the two, however, most employers normally prefer and accept those who have completed their training from either an accredited practice or an accredited program (The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists, 2013). Moreover, registered diagnostic medical sonographers have a higher preference in the medical field than those who have not registered.
One of the requirements for diagnostic medical sonography is possession of a postsecondary certificate like a bachelor’s degree or associate’s degree. These are normally offered at various accredited colleges and universities. However, the majority of employers demand that a diagnostic medical sonographer have professional certification. People working in the health sector such as in nursing can also earn a one-year certificate program. Such accredited programs often prescribe to a specific mode of study, such as clinical training (Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography, 2013). The programs also train candidates on how to interpret sonographic images, along with various medical terminologies.
One can also specialize in the program of choice. For example, there are specialists in breast sonography, while others specialize in abdominal sonography. Radiology technologists and nurses can also qualify as sonographers upon successful completion of an on-the-job training program. In terms of certification and licenses, a sonographer has to pass an exam and graduate from an accredited program before they can receive certification (ARRT, 2013). This is important if at all a sonographer is to receive a license to operate. They are also required to undertake constant training to remain relevant in the industry.
Formal training takes between 2 and 4 years, upon which one is awarded a bachelor’s or an associate degree. Examples of classes covered by the course work include basic physics, instrumentation, and patient care, among others. Universities and colleges mainly offer accredited programs by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). CAAHEP has also accredited several hospitals as well (Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, 2011). Although there is no single state that demands that diagnostic medical sonographers be licensed, there are various professional certifying bodies through which sonographers can become credentialed. One such body is the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS).
A report released by the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography b (2013) reveals that there were some 53,700 diagnostic medical sonographers in the United States. Hospitals are the major employers of sonographers and as of 2010, they employed 61 percent of sonographers. Another 24 percent worked in various offices of physicians, while a further 9 percent found employment in medical diagnostic centers and laboratories across the United States (Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography b, 2013). Only 2 percent of diagnostic medical sonographers worked at outpatient care centers. Most of the work of a diagnostic medical sonographer is mainly centered on diagnostic imaging machines.
The working areas for most sonographers tend to be well lit and clean. It is not unusual for diagnostic medical sonographers to attend to patients at the bedside, where they conduct a number of procedures. Sonographers spend most of their working hours on their feet. At times, they may also be required to turn or lift patients who are not in a position to do so either because of the severity of their medical conditions or due to physical disability. The job of a diagnostic medical sonographer is a full-time affair. In case of emergencies, a physician might require imaging on short notice and for this reason, most sonographers are always on call, even on the weekends. Sometimes they also have to work overnight or in the evenings. For the majority of the diagnostic medical sonographers, working hours often exceed 40 hours per week (Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography c, 2013). Moreover, most sonographers have to be ready always as they could be summoned to the workplace on short notice.
The diagnostic medical sonographer profession is anticipated to grow by nearly 44 percent between the years 2010 and 2020. A lot of patients and health care professionals already like ultrasound imaging technology because it is less costly and less invasive in comparison with conventional procedures. In addition, the procedure does not also expose the patient to radiation. For these reasons, the uptake of sonography is bound to increase (Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography b, 2013). Even as hospitals are the key areas where diagnostic medical sonographers find employment, in the years to come, we can expect that more of these professionals shall find employment in diagnostic and medical laboratories, as well as in physician’s offices. This is due to the current shift in the health care setting towards outpatient care. Third-party payers normally encourage outpatient care since this is a form of a cost-saving measure. This has largely been made possible thanks to technological advances, like in the case of the use of less expensive ultrasound equipment, in effect enabling more procedures to be carried out outside of the hospital setting.
Part of the work of a sonographer is to operate special equipment that enables them to develop images based on the high-frequency sound from different parts of a patient’s body. Echoes developed by this special equipment are later can, later on, be transmitted to assist a physician in making a diagnosis (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013). In undertaking their activities, sonographers often start by explaining the procedure to the patient in a simple manner. At the same time, they also record any medical history of the patient that could be of importance to the condition under scrutiny. Thereafter, the sonographer selects the most suitable equipment setting for the procedure at hand. It is also the reasonability of a sonographer to assist the patient move in the most suitable position to facilitate the best view. While performing an exam on a patient, sonographers make use of special equipment known as a transducer. Different areas being examined require different techniques and as such, one technique cannot suffice.
In order to obtain the best results, a diagnostic medical sonographer normally applies a special gel on the skin of a patient. This is important as the special gel aids in the transmission of sound waves. Based on their discretion, sonographers decide on the most satisfactory images for diagnostic purposes (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013).
It is important to note that the activities of a diagnostic medical sonographer are not just limited to the above roles. As such, they are often involved in taking various measurements of the patients, in addition to calculating values as regards imaging. Moreover, sonographers also analyze the results of tests done as well. This is in order to come up with preliminary findings for use by the physicians to give a diagnosis. Another activity performed by sonographers is equipment maintenance and adoption. Other duties include evaluating the purchase process of equipment, as well as work schedules preparation.
To qualify as a diagnostic medical sonographer, one can receive on-the-job training undergo formal education at an accredited university or college, or hospital setting. Health care professionals like nurses can also become diagnostic medical sonographers by undertaking a one-year certificate program. Typically, an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree course takes between 2 and 4 years.
While certification for a diagnostic medical sonographer is not compulsory in virtually all the states, on the other hand, it is important to note that majority of the employers would rather employ a sonographer who is certified. Alternatively, preference is also given to a sonographer who has graduated from an accredited institution. Most states also encourage sonographers to undertake continuing education in order to ensure that their certification remains current. The profession is projected to grow by as much as 44% over the next decade mainly due to the evolvement of ultrasound imaging technology. This is normally accomplished using special equipment. Using this equipment, a sonographer is in a better position to collect echoes from specific parts of a patient’s body. Using these echoes, a sonographer then develops images that form the basis for a physician’s diagnosis. Part of the sonographer’s activities involves explaining to patients the various procedures they are likely to undergo. Using a transducer, a sonographer is then able to perform an exam on a patient. Other activities a sonographer does include adjusting and maintaining the equipment, preparing work schedules, and evaluating equipment purchases.
British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT). (2013). Diagnostic Medical Sonography. Web.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2011). Diagnostic Medical Sonographers. Web.
Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography a. (2013). Diagnostic Medical Sonographer. Web.
Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography b. (2013). Selecting a Diagnostic Medical Sonography Education Program. Web.
Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography c. (2013). So you want to be a sonographer...Web.
The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). (2013). Sonography Certification. Web.