The process of choosing an ultrasound school that leads to a degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography is first simplified by limiting the selection to those accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). The accreditation means the CAAHEP has completed an assessment of the quality of the program content and how well the program adequately prepares the student to take ARDMS exams to become a registered sonographer.
However, students still need to assess the various types of learning environments to find the ones that best fit the student’s learning style. There are a number of factors to consider like location, type of facilities, reputation for student success and campus environment.
Location of an Ultrasound School
The location of the school is important and greatly impacts the learning environment. The location factors include the state and city where the ultrasound school is located. However, it also refers to whether the school is rural or urban; its distance from where the student will be living while attending school; the time it will take to get to the school; and the availability of the preferred mode of transportation.
For example, the Hillsborough Community College is located in the heart of Tampa, Florida on the Dale Mabry Campus. The urban based campus is a tobacco-free institution and has student parking lots for those who drive to campus. If a student does not have a car then it is important to investigate whether the city has public transportation. In this case, it does. Tampa has a bus service called HART that travels all areas of Hillsborough County. Hillsborough Community College does have a limited amount of student housing, but not every school makes housing available. These are the types of location factors to consider.
Type of Facilities
There is a wide range of CAAHEP accredited schools. Once again, the CAAHEP accreditation means the clinical training meets or exceeds minimum national quality standards. However, not every school is equal in terms of facilities and equipment. The Johns Hopkins Hospital School of Cardiac Sonography utilizes the facilities of Johns Hopkins Hospital for hands-on clinical training. In 2013, the hospital was ranked as number one in the nation by “U.S. News and World Report.”
Students attending the sonography program know they are accessing top quality facilities at a top tier hospital. In fact, the hospital has an extensive variety of imaging equipment to serve the various specialties. There are many other quality sonography programs with excellent facilities. Students should inquire as to the type of imaging equipment used for training, clinical training options, and adequacy of program funding.
Reputation for Student Success
The “Student Right-to-Know Act” passed by the U.S. Congress in 1990 requires any institution eligible for Title IV funding to calculate and report graduation rates of certificate seeking or degree seeking, full-time students. This is just one statistic that is important to review. Each school publishes a lot of information for the whole school and for each program.
Potential sonography students should look at figures like total school enrollments, student diversity, average student age, average student-to-faculty ratio, degrees awarded and so on. This gives a good statistical snapshot of the ultrasound school. The same type of information is available for the sonography program. If the information is not posted online, it is important to call or email the program director and ask for information like the following:
- Total number of program applicants
- Percent of students completing the program on time
- Class size
- The student-faculty ratio
- Number of faculty and their qualifications
- Percent of students obtaining financial aid
- Percent of students finding employment within a year of graduation
Some students enjoy small, quiet campuses. Other students want to attend a school with a dynamic environment that offers many student activities. Each school website has a “student life” section (name may vary) where the types of student organizations and activities are discussed.
Using Austin Community College as an example, there is a tab online called “Support and Services.” Clicking on the tab lists everything available for students. In this case, there are student services that include career services, counseling, and student support programs. There is also a “Disability Services Assistive Technology” section that is important for physically challenged students. Also under “Support and Services” is a selection for “Student Experience & Community.” Austin community College has a number of student organizations, events, co-curricular activities and a student government association.
Any school and CAAHEP accredited sonography program the student is considering should be thoroughly reviewed to determine if it will meet personal and professional needs. CAAHEP accreditation is critical for assuring program quality. However, sonography students are participants in a larger student body and want to ensure they enjoy the learning environment while attending a sonography school.
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