Choosing a career in 2017 in the health industry is challenging because there are so many options. One of the choices is sonography, also called ultrasound technology or Diagnostic Medical Sonography. As millions of uninsured people join the ranks of the insured in 2017 due to implementation of a national health insurance program, there will be a great need for credentialed Diagnostic Medical Sonographers. However, before deciding to become a sonographer, there are some things to keep in mind because this is not the right profession for everyone.
1. A person does not like working with people and prefers a set schedule.
During a normal shift, a sonographer will interact with up to 12 patients and a number of physicians and other hospital personnel. Sonographers must greet the patient and explain the process in a way that is professional but reassuring. They are hands-on health professionals who prep patients for the image-taking session and position them during the procedure. Sonographers also work with doctors, nurses, office staff, families and other people.
It is frequently necessary to adjust the planned work schedule to provide critical services to patients on an unexpected or emergency basis. The sonographer must be able to maintain composure while managing stressful situations and be willing to work additional hours to provide quality patient care.
In fact, working sonographers frequently point out that their positions require being on call for the equivalent of one week a month. They may have to rotate shifts, and some people find that difficult to manage. These scheduling requirements will interfere with social activities and require additional family planning. Anyone unwilling to assume this type of schedule should choose another professional field.
2. Someone does not like technology or regularly upgrading knowledge and skills as technology advances.
Sonographers are responsible for preparing, using, and then recalibrating sophisticated equipment. They must be able to recognize when the ultrasound machine is not working properly, and that requires in-depth knowledge and experience and frequent information upgrades. Ultrasound technologists use a variety of medical radiological positioning aids; ultrasound, Doppler, or echo monitors; 3D sonography equipment; pulse echo or echography units; cardioscopes; computers; medical software; and much more.
New ultrasound technologies are being developed all the time, requiring sonography professionals to invest time and effort in learning how to use new equipment and techniques. Just recently the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering developed a handheld ultrasound imaging device, and there will surely be more new equipment introduced in the future. To maintain currency, sonographers must regularly learn how to use the new ultrasound machine technologies.
Sonographers completing their educational program requirements should sit for the ARDMS exams to earn credentials. The ARDMS registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer has to earn a minimum of 30 continuing medical education requirements (CMEs) during a designated three-year period to maintain the credential. After the three years, there is a 10-year recertification period. Professionals interested in maintaining quality standards and advancing their careers will go beyond minimum requirements and regularly attend informative workshops, seminars and/or classes offering CME credits.
3. There is little interest in maintaining detailed patient records or working within bureaucratic systems with strict rules.
If a personal vision of being a sonographer includes only working with patients and then passing off the maintenance of records to others, the vision needs correcting. Sonographers manage a mix of input to electronic patient health records and filling out paperwork. They establish accurate records of information by documenting the number and type of images taken and the content of each image. The healthcare professionals might be responsible for scheduling exams, obtaining consent forms, and completing safety reports.
How much manual paperwork is required depends on where the sonographer is employed. A large hospital may have installed a sophisticated computer system that is integrated with the medical equipment, and procedure results are automatically recorded and paperwork requirements are minimized. However, if the sonographer works for a small, rural outpatient center, there may be significant paperwork processing required.
In any medical office or business there will be daily routines, minimum job requirements, a need to comply with detailed government regulations, extensive record-keeping, and ranking of staff. The sonographer must answer to radiologists, doctors and supervisors. The job can get quite complicated at times. For this reason, sonographers must be flexible and able to work within an established system.
4. It is important to get a lot of recognition and regular accolades for job performance.
Sonographers are “quiet” health professionals. They are usually not seen dramatically running down hospital halls to respond to emergency calls or attending award ceremonies held in their honor. Sonographers choose their careers because they want to help people and make a difference in their lives by providing quality healthcare services.
For anyone needing a lot of pats-on-the-back to remain motivated, Diagnostic Medical Sonography is not a good career choice.
5. The ideal job is one with routine work that does not require critical thinking, active listening, problem-solving, or decision-making.
Sonographers are key players in the delivery of healthcare services. They do not just prep patients and take images. They must analyze the images to determine if they are usable or need to be redone. The professional must make decisions about equipment adjustments and the best way to adjust patient positions to get accurate images. They must decide which images to keep and which to discard. The trained professionals also determine the scope of the exam as images are taken.
The Diagnostic Medical Sonographer is responsible for ensuring the image is complete enough for its intended purpose, which might be assessing internal organs, locating neural abnormalities, pinpointing disease of the breast, or determining if a fetus is developing normally.
Unsung Heroes with One Purpose: Help Patients
Sonographers can rightly be called unsung heroes because they play such an important role in delivering non-invasive diagnostic medical services. The patient may talk about a great doctor or wonderful hospital, but it is unlikely anyone will hear him or her talking about the stunning images of heart disease or a brain tumor. When expectant parents show off fetus images to family and friends, they will talk about plans for the baby or the excitement of knowing it is a boy or girl. They may remember the “nice person who took the pictures.” However, the likelihood is that they will not be overheard discussing the sonographer skills that produced the images.
People choose to become a sonographer because they want to help people and are attracted to the medical field, but they do not want to be doctor or nurses. The rest becomes unimportant. It is really that simple.