A topic discussed early in every Diagnostic Medical Sonography program is professionalism. The concept embraces three areas: competence, practice and conduct. Professionalism touches everything the sonographer does in 2017, including patient care, relationships with other professionals, clinical training, ethical decision-making and much more. Professionalism is so important that it is included as a topic in advising guides, sonography courses and clinical training manuals to reinforce the fact that achieving the highest level is critical to career success.
High Level of Competence
In the sonography profession, the broadest definition of professionalism is used in that it embraces aims, conduct and qualities. The ability to develop professionalism is critical to career success. In fact, it is so important that the advising guide for the CAAHEP accredited Diagnostic Medical Sonography program at Middlesex Community College in Massachusetts includes a list of traits the sonography profession requires.
The traits go to the heart of being a professional. They include the ability to maintain medical ethics, follow hospital procedures, master and exercise a variety of physical and technical skills, effectively communicate with students and staff, and develop effective working relationships. Once admitted to the program, the hard work of developing the right skills and competencies begins.
The Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS) published a Code of Ethics for the Diagnostic Medical Sonographer profession. The overriding goal is to promote high quality patient care through the exercise of accountability and responsibility while performing the duties of a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer. One of the principles says that sonographers will develop the ability to exercise the highest level of skills and competencies.
To develop and maintain a high level of competency, several steps are taken beginning with the educational process and continuing through a lifelong career. In the U.S., this includes:
- Completing a CAAHEP accredited program that includes didactic and clinical training
- Earning ARDMS registration by successfully passing general and specialty exams
- Maintaining the ARDMS credential by completing continuing education requirements
- Regularly upgrading knowledge and skills by participating in continuing education opportunities
- Expanding knowledge through on-the-job experience
- Upholding the highest standards of practice in patient care
Sonographers never stop learning through experience and additional training. As imaging technology advances and the application of sonographic scanning expands, it has never been more important for sonographers to maintain professionalism through competence.
High Level of Patient care (Practice)
Sonography students completing clinical training are expected to take this time to develop the highest level of professionalism in terms of patient care. What is learned during training is then applied and strengthened once employed. Included in this area of professionalism are the following:
- Successfully and accurately performing scanning procedures
- Fully utilizing knowledge and skills to provide the best patient results
- Adhering to high quality patient care standards
- Participating in facility reviews of professional practice, equipment and results
- Respecting the dignity and privacy of patients during transport and imaging procedures, and during conversations
- Maintaining professional communication standards with patients and family members at all times
Ultimately, the practice of sonography involves personal skills, competencies, values, ethics and attitudes. Everything taken together should lead to the highest level of professional patient care because it is the patient who matters the most.
High Level of Conduct
Sonographer professionalism also includes a high level of ethical and professional conduct. This applies while in school and when employed. Many Diagnostic Medical Sonography programs include required courses that specifically discuss conduct and ethics in the healthcare setting. In this category, professionalism encompasses everything from the dress code to working relationships.
- Never abuses substances and never uses illegal substances
- Always dresses appropriately
- Routinely reports for work on time, minimizes absences and completes work schedule
- Consistently works cooperatively and collaboratively with other healthcare professionals and facility staff to promote high quality patient care
- Maintains ethical standards at all times in every area, including patient care, decision-making, documentation, work behavior and all legal, medical and professional associations
- Reports ethical issues to facility administration
Professionalism is a Two-Way Street
In an interesting twist, there is also a focus on helping radiologists develop optimal professional relationships with ultrasound technicians.* Achieving professionalism is an important element of delivering quality healthcare services. It is a concept that influences how well health care professionals work together and how well they are able to best serve the needs of their patients. Professionalism concerns skill levels achieved, quality practice methods and appropriate conduct. Put the three together, and there is no doubt the optimal level of professionalism can be achieved.
*BE Hashimoto, et. al.,”Teaching Ultrasound Professionalism,” Ultrasound Q, 2014 June 30.