The sonography students in college during 2017 are focused on mastering ultrasound or sonography imaging skills. However, they are also humans who may let poor habits, bad behaviors or negative relationships derail good intentions. Becoming a sonographer requires meeting the program challenges by taking control of personal success. Each person knows their weaknesses and must strive to overcome them by developing positive psychological and emotional skills and by forming positive relationships.
Own Your Education
Ownership means more than owning something. It means taking full responsibility and exercising control. One of the quickest ways a student will end up struggling through the Diagnostic Medical Sonography program is to let bad habits, other people, negative thinking and self-defeating behaviors overwhelm all the positive aspects of life. People who do not take ownership of their education are more likely to:
- Consistently struggle to submit work on time
- Seldom take advantage of self-help opportunities like student study groups or online training material that is in addition to required coursework
- Avoid financial planning to cover the cost of education
- Blame others for problems like “the instructor grades too strictly” or ”she never taught us that material in class” and so on
- Frequently complain about the program work requirements, the faculty, the clinical assignments, the condition of the ultrasound equipment and so on
- Skip reading parts of the Diagnostic Medical Sonography Student’s Handbook or FAQs even though they provide helpful information
- Fail to take steps to address personal shortcomings, like difficulty with time management or poor study habits
To own the school experience during training to be an ultrasound technician or sonographer is to take responsibility for conscious and unconscious thoughts and habits, and doing everything necessary to succeed as an ultrasound student learner.
Own Your Circumstances
One of the important points to take away from this discussion is that everyone is susceptible to biases – realized and unconscious. Sonography students want to succeed by mastering challenges like difficult coursework or clinical training, but cognitive biases can derail motivation and lead to less-than-full use of abilities.
Psychologist Fritz Heider studied interpersonal relations, developing attribution theory and coining the term “naive scientist.” (1) The term refers to the fact people will try to explain the behaviors of others and themselves by attributing behaviors to internal or external factors. Self-serving attributions are when a student, like a sonography student, attributes success to internal or dis-positional factors, like willingness to work hard or intelligence, and failures on situational factors, like the instructor or program difficulty.
When people call someone a “finger pointer” they are, in effect, saying the person always places blame for problems on someone or something else. Everyone knows a finger-pointer who never takes responsibility for personal difficulties or failures. A companion bias is called self-handicapping behavior in which the student acts in a way that harms performance. Rather than rely on the good habits of a sonography successful student, the person relies on excuses.
For example, a sonography student knows she has to pass a major test on Monday morning in order to maintain a grade of B or higher. The student decides to go out with friends Sunday night, stays out too late, only gets a few hours of sleep and is tired when the Monday morning alarm goes off. The result is a poor grade on the test. The student tells herself she has a good reason for getting a C on the test, thus maintaining self-esteem. Berglas and Jones described self-handicapping in 1978 as a person acting in a certain way or making choices which enable the person to excuse failure or to take credit for success based on personal attributes.(2) It is a disconnect between actions or choices and desired outcomes.
Own a Life as a Sonographer
The ultimate purpose for attributing failures to everything except lack of effort or poor behaviors is to protect self-esteem and avoid the negative emotions and thoughts that would normally accompany poor performance. If they want to maximize their chances for success, sonography students should be aware of the propensity for humans to ignore potential consequences of certain behaviors.
People who do not accept ownership of their educational experience are much more likely to feel out of control. Blaming others when outcomes are not the ones desired only increases feelings of frustration because it means the real issues are not addressed. One approach to increasing the chances of being a successful student is to develop and apply critical thinking skills.
Critical thinking is a process that is self-directed and self-corrective. Rather than blaming someone else for negative outcomes, the sonography student in an accredited ultrasound technician school will analyze the event with an unbiased perspective, determine what needs to be done differently and then make a plan for change. Critical thinking skills not only can improve the educational experience; they are carried over into a career as a sonographer.
Students developing critical thinking skills have developed an important skill that sonographers use on a day-to-day basis. The key is to make an independent assessment of the situation, rather than falling back on biases that protect self-esteem. The first step is developing the awareness that success and failure really are under the control of the student.
(1) Heider, F. (1958). The Psychology of Interpersonal Relations. New York: Wiley.
(2) Jones, E. E., & Berglas, S. (1978). Control of attributions about the self through self-handicapping strategies: The appeal of alcohol and the role of underachievement. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(2), 200-206.