If you have ever been pregnant, diagnosed with cancer, or had any type of internal medical scan, then you have likely met a diagnostic medical sonographer. Sonography technicians use specialized ultrasound equipment that emit sound waves to take images of the interior of the body. Other duties of a medical diagnostic sonographer include:
- Gather medical information about the patient
- Work with doctors and other medical staff to determine what needs to be scanned
- Obtain required images and analyze them for preliminary diagnosis
- Double check accuracy of imaging
- Prepare and maintain equipment
- Record relevant information in patient’s medical file
Though fetal images are the most well-known pictures taken using ultrasound, the technology is actually used in multiple medical disciplines such as:
Abdominal sonography: Technicians take pictures of the patient’s abdominal cavity and surrounding organs such as the pancreas and spleen.
Breast sonography: This technology is used to scan the inside of the breast to detect breast cancer, abnormal growths, and to assist in diagnosing mammary malfunctions.
Neurosonography: Imagery of the central nervous system (CNS) to assist in diagnosing brain tumors and other CNS problems.
Muscoloskeletal sonography: Images of the joints, ligaments, muscles, and tendons.
Obsteteric and gynecological sonography: Images of the female reproductive system and to track fetal growth.
Cardiovascular sonography: Images of the heart, blood flow, and blood vessels
As a sonography technician, you can practice general sonography or specialize in one or more of the above disciplines.
Medical Sonographer Education and Training
To enter the profession, you must obtain either formal education or specialized training. Community colleges, technical schools, and vocational schools offer certificate and associate’s degree programs in ultrasound technology that can be completed within 1 to 2 years. The programs typically offer a combination of school work and clinical training. Some hospitals and other medical facilities offer onsite training in sonography, but this is typically reserved for people who already have education and experience in the medical field (e.g. nurses).
Some states require diagnostic medical sonographers to be licensed. More information about this can be obtained from your state licensing department or medical board. Although certification is not mandated by the government, you are more likely to obtain employment if you become certified through an accrediting organization for one or more types of sonography. The most well known organization in the field is the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography. Detailed information about certification can be found on their website. Continuing education is required to maintain licensing and certification.
Interpersonal skills: You will be working closely with people from all parts of the life and personality spectrum. Interacting with them requires compassion, patience, and professionalism.
Technical skills: You must be comfortable being around and handling electronic equipment since your duty is to use and maintain the ultrasound machine.
Detail oriented: In addition to following directions, you must be able to tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy tissue and notice subtle cues that can assist the doctor with the patient’s diagnosis.
Stamina and coordination: You will be standing and walking around for long periods of time and some patients will require your assistance turning and moving. To get the best images, you must have good hand-eye coordination and control over your hands and wrist.
The largest employers of medical diagnostic sonographers are public and private hospitals (over 61%) followed by private physician offices (24%). Medical diagnostic laboratories and outpatient care centers also employ ultrasound technicians.
The work environment is often fast paced, particularly in hospitals. In most cases, sonographers work in dimly lit rooms but may also perform ultrasounds at patients’ bedsides using a portable machine. Since you will be working in medical facilities, your exposure to communicable disease and infectious agents are high. However, you can reduce the risk of contracting a disease by following safety procedures such as wearing gloves.
Most sonographers work full time. Night, weekend, and graveyard hours are not unusual. Occasionally, you may be required to work on-call.
Medical Sonographer Salary
The average salary for this occupation is $64,380. At the high and low ends, the wages are $88,490 and $44,900 respectively. The actual salary you are paid is influenced by many factors including your employer. Outpatient care centers paid the highest wages at $69,740 followed by physician offices at $64,560. Hospitals and diagnostic laboratories came in third and fourth place at $64,440 and $62,290. Sonography technician also enjoy health insurance benefits, life insurance, and matching contributions to a retirement fund.
Approximately 53,700 people were employed as medical diagnostic sonographers. The number of job opportunities is expected to grow quickly, 44% by 2020. Much of this growth is fueled by hospitals switching many services to outpatient centers to save money. The growing senior population is also influencing the increased need for medical diagnostic sonographers. People with formal education and certification in multiple ultrasound disciplines have the best job prospects.
Please visit obgynsono.com to find schools and learn more about an exciting career in sonography.