Sonographer job shadowing is an excellent way to experience what it is like working in a medical imaging department. However, a visit to the medical facility offering sonography job shadowing opportunities should not be the only deciding factor for anyone thinking of becoming a sonographer in 8 steps. There are advantages and disadvantages to job shadowing. The ultrasound student is not getting all the information needed to make a career decision, so the shadowing event should never discourage anyone.
Sonographer Job Shadowing
For those unfamiliar with the term, job shadowing is an experience in which students or other people follow (like a shadow) an employee who is completing a typical day’s work. It is used across industries, and not just in the healthcare field. In the business environment, the intern may do hands-on work, but in a medical facility the student is not allowed to do so in the interest of keeping patients safe.
People interested in ultrasound technology can find plenty of information about job duties, educational requirements and skills requirements on Ultrasound Technology Center. Sonographer job shadowing is just another strategy for learning more about the real-world work of a sonographer. The shadowing experience can be an event that helps people make the final decision to pursue an ultrasound career, or it can discourage some people when it does go as planned.
People who decide to take advantage of ultrasound job shadowing programs should not use the experience as the only deciding factor for many reasons. For example, the person being shadowed may have an atypical workday or the staff is so busy that they have difficulty taking the time to answer questions.
Also, medical facilities arrange job duties differently. The duties of the day shift staff might be different from night shift duties. For example, night shift staff may cover ultrasound duties in more than one department like ultrasound imaging and the emergency room or assume additional responsibilities like department record-keeping because fewer patients are seen late at night. Each medical facility is different, so job shadowing is not an end-all for making a career decision.
Advantages of Job Shadowing
Many CAAHEP accredited sonography programs require potential students to shadow a sonographer on at least one eight-hour shift. Despite its limitations, there are many advantages to sonographer job shadowing. They include:
- Gives students an idea of what sonographers really do during a shift and not just what role descriptions say they should do
- Offers insight into duties that are ‘invisible’ because they are not officially documented in job descriptions
- Gets opportunity to witness a sonographer operating in the physical work environment
- Gets a better understanding of the level of mental and physical activity required
- Interacts with other healthcare workers
- Sees the ultrasound technologist interact with real patients, coworkers, and supervisors
- Gets opportunities to ask an ARDMS registered sonographer questions
- Gets a more holistic view of the medical imaging department as one unit in a healthcare facility
- Future sonography job seekers make connections that can be useful when looking for ultrasound jobs after getting registered with the ARDMS, especially if the same facility is hiring at the right time
Since hands-on experienced are not allowed, the real benefit of job shadowing is that it gives potential students an opportunity to see a sonographer working in a real-world setting. It is an experience within a medical context, and there are plenty of good places offering shadowing opportunities. The experience can help the ultrasound student identify the type of healthcare facility that would be a best fit once actively doing a job search.
Disadvantages of Job Shadowing
Despite the advantages of job shadowing, there is no way to truly understand a profession just by watching someone at work for eight hours. The disadvantages of job shadowing include the following:
- The short period of observation time cannot give the shadower a full picture of what the job entails
- Each medical facility has a unique culture, set of policies and procedures, scheduling practices, job descriptions, etc. The one facility where job shadowing occurs may not be a good match for the observer, but there are thousands of medical facilities looking for sonographers
- There is no guarantee the job shadower and the person being shadowed are able to effectively communicate
- People being job shadowed may not act in a normal manner because they experience discomfort at being watched
- The person being shadowed may have to limit some typical activities, interactions and conversations with others to protect patient privacy
- The person being shadowed may revise their typical schedule and activities to accommodate the job shadower, turning the experience into an atypical one
Consider the Big Picture
Sonographer job shadowing is most impactful for high school junior and senior students considering a sonography career. However, anyone can benefit, including people searching for a career before starting college, people interested in a second career and college students who are ready to focus on training for a specific healthcare career. Job shadowing is only one strategy for investigating the sonography occupation, but it should never be the only one.