The world gets smaller every day, bringing greater awareness of the medical needs in underdeveloped areas. A host of nonprofits and churches answer the call to serve fellow human beings through medical missions, inviting sonographers to bring their special skills. Medical missions for sonographers in 2016 are opportunities to provide scanning services and teach local physicians proper use of imaging equipment. Ultrasound imaging is ideally suited because it is used for a variety of medical purposes.
Understanding Medical Missions
Medical missions are composed of groups of medical professionals who travel to under-developed or developing countries. They focus on areas or communities where there is low or no access to healthcare services. The medical missions are usually organized by faith-based or nonprofit organizations.
Some of the organizations sponsor informal, random trips as funds allow, while others are ongoing operations. The medical missions are organized in response to an urgent medical need like lack of prenatal medical care, a disease outbreak, natural disasters or extreme poverty.
There are many formal medical mission organizations including, but not limited, to:
This is just a sample of the large, international organizations arranging medical missions as part of a global health outreach effort. However, many small short-term are arranged by churches, hospitals, small nonprofits and physicians. There are even organizations dedicated to taking sonography to foreign lands, like Hope Imaging.
Sonography is a Perfect Fit
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers possess training and skills that can provide invaluable medical services in underdeveloped countries because the medical sonography education is comprehensive. One of the greatest benefits a sonographer offers medical missions is the versatile ability to use imaging equipment to scan every part of the body.
Sonographers can assist physicians in many ways, including training physicians in underserved areas on use of ultrasound equipment. Pamela Brower, Tyler Junior College ‘s department chair, traveled with Mercy Ships to the African Congo to assess sonography equipment, teach diagnostic scanning techniques and perform scans (see: here)
Driving greater utilization of sonographers on medical missions is the development of lighter and more mobile sonography equipment. The equipment is easier to use and maintain, energy efficient and easy to carry into places that may be war-torn, under-developed or damaged by natural events. For example, the Sonosite ultrasound system is designed to be carried almost anywhere.
The Sonosite Global Health Programs makes the mobile ultrasound equipment affordable to nonprofit organizations at special pricing, prompting a need for trained sonographers who can operate the equipment. UnitsUSA loans portable ultrasound units to faith-based organizations arranging short-term medical missions.
Benefits of Participating on Medical Missions
The medical mission trips do not just benefit people needing medical assistance. Medical missions offer the ultrasound technicians personal and professional benefits. Sonographers with purpose are dedicated, compassionate people who want to share their talents with those less fortunate. In doing so, they also:
- Develop leadership abilities
- Gain valuable work experience that can be added to a resume, strengthening the newly ARDMS registered student’s job hunting efforts upon return to the home country
- Get opportunities to network with a variety of healthcare professionals
- Enjoy enhanced professional development through the broadening of knowledge and experience
- Get the personal satisfaction that always comes with helping others
- Travel to other countries, developing effective communication skills
- Gain experience working with diverse people, strengthening cultural awareness
Upon completing medical sonography education programs and passing the ARDMS exam, sonographers who want to join one of the medical missions for sonographers may need to contact a number of organizations to find the right trip. A good place to start is to first discuss the desire to join a medical mission trip with a society like SDMS which has a broad network of contacts.