Students complete didactic and clinical training to become a sonographer, and both are equally important. All Diagnostic Medical Sonography training programs in 2017 accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) require clinical training or experience because they give students invaluable real world experience in a healthcare setting. There is no classroom experience that can replace the experience of producing a sonogram that assists a physician with the diagnosis of medical conditions.
Sonography Training Program Requirements
For an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree and most certificate programs in Diagnostic Medical Sonography, the clinical training is completed as part of the CAAHEP accredited program. The only time a student may not need to complete clinical training is when the student has already completed the appropriate clinical training while earning an Allied Health degree. This is most frequently true for sonography certificate programs for specialization, sonography diploma programs, or when choosing to turn an Associate Degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography into a Bachelor’s Degree for career advancement reasons.
The CAAHEP clinical training requirements ensure a trainee is eligible to sit for the ARDMS exams which require either completing clinical training or being able to show proof of appropriate clinical experience. The student must complete the equivalent of 12 months of full-time clinical training or show proof of equivalent experience in the clinical setting.
Sonography programs usually require clinical rotations. The only exception is when the training facility, like the Johns Hopkins Hospital, has a large imaging department that performs a range of procedures. The vast majority of programs require the student to be willing and able to do rotations which serves several purposes:
- Give students hands-on experience with real patients
- Ensure students have real-world experience performing scanning procedures for different purposes, i.e. breast, abdomen, cardiovascular systems, and so on
- Provide opportunities to work in different medical settings
- Deliver the highest quality training experience possible
- Give students experience working with a large variety of healthcare professionals
- Build confidence in ability to perform imaging procedures in different circumstances
- Enhance professional exposure by increasing opportunities to meet with a variety of faculty and professionals
It is important to practice as a sonographer before working in the field as a professional. Diagnostic Medical Sonography is an exacting discipline that requires the ability to blend technical knowledge and skills with the ability to successfully work with a variety of patients who have different personalities, medical conditions, communication skills and stress levels. The only way to prepare for these working conditions is to actually work in a variety of departments delivering imaging services.
Glimpse into Clinical Rotation
The clinical rotation process that is a component of sonography training is an immersive experience. The typical student was involved in many different activities in the clinical setting. A trainee will:
- Perform examinations under the supervision of a professional sonography
- Observe sonographic exams performed by qualified department personnel
- Process routine images as required by department policies and procedures
- Process images that give experience in a certain specialty like fetal echocardiography or breast
- Prepare medical records and complete required documentation of procedures
- Operate various medical equipment devices
- Transport patients to and from the department
- Transfer patients from wheel chairs and gurneys to the imaging table
- Be asked to express judgment in various situations so that supervisors can evaluate the appropriateness of the student’s decision making
- Maintain stock rooms with supplies
- Clean equipment
- Respond to various hospital codes like cardiac arrest or tornado alert
- Prove dependability and professionalism through prompt attendance required by schedule
- Learn how to maintain professional appearance
- Pinpoint weaknesses that need additional focus through directed training
- Demonstrate progressive improvement in expertise in skills
- Demonstrate a willingness to learn from others and the ability to cooperate
Sonography program staff will assign the student to the clinical affiliates. The student may be allowed to express a preference, but the sonography program director reserves the right to determine the schedule of clinical rotations. This is so the program maintains its ability to ensure Diagnostic Medical Sonography students have the highest quality clinical training experience in preparation for successful careers.
Prepare in Advance
Anyone who is concerned or just curious about the sonography training program requirements for clinical training should talk to one or more professional sonographers about their personal experiences. Other ways to learn more firsthand knowledge include:
- Submitting questions to professional sonographers on online forums dedicated to Allied Health training programs or ultrasound technology
- Volunteering at a hospital or clinic to get firsthand knowledge of the imaging department
- Reading clinical information in training manuals posted online by CAAHEP accredited Diagnostic Medical Sonography programs
The clinical training position is an important one to the student and the profession. It is a training that ensures the newest generation of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers is ready to work with the sophisticated technology and in a variety of healthcare settings in a professional manner.