It is easy to find a list of ultrasound tech job duties online. In a nutshell, sonographers operate sophisticated imaging equipment, perform ultrasound examinations, collect and record data, and collaborate with other healthcare professionals. Now ask this: What does a sonographer really do during a shift? Read between the lines of job descriptions in 2017 and find the rest of the story. Sonographers do much more than the job description indicates.
Specific Ultrasound Tech Duties Depend on Job Profile
One of the first indications that the role of the sonographer is expanding is found in the fact there are now 10 or more ultrasound career options based on specialization. Some duties, like operating and maintaining ultrasound equipment, are found across positions. There are some duties that are specific to the sonography specialty. For example, the breast sonographer concentrates on detecting and monitoring diseases involving the breast, while a cardiac sonographer evaluates the functioning of the cardiovascular system. There are also sonographers who obtain multiple ARDMS specialty registrations in order to better serve patients and possibly increase career options.
The Rochester Institute of Technology is a CAAHEP accredited Diagnostic Medical Sonography program. The program website points out that sonographers perform duties that the public may be familiar with, but there are many other facets to the sonographer role.
For example, the sonographer interacts with patients from the beginning to the end of their visit to the ultrasound department. In contrast, think about a typical visit to a doctor’s office. The nurse comes in to take blood pressure and leaves. The physician comes in to assess the patient and leaves. The patient is sent to the lab for blood work and sees a whole new group of healthcare professionals.
The Real World of the Sonographer
Reading between the lines of the typical job description, an exceptional ultrasound tech performs on a much higher level. The sonographer will:
- Educate the patient on the imaging procedures so that the person has a better understanding of what is going on and is more likely to fully cooperate
- Run errands for the department because the sonographer is a team player who jumps in and takes care of what need to be done to keep the imaging department running smoothly (i.e. picks up medical supplies from hospital stock room for use in the imaging exam room)
- Schedule patients and balance a full patient load by cheerfully re-scheduling patients when they cancel an appointment for any reason
- Determine appointment priorities based on patient needs
- Research patient medical issues in advance, ensuring the imaging examination time produces the best results
- Stay over the scheduled work shift when necessary to ensure transmission of all images are completed as required or to do necessary documentation
- Train newly hired ultrasound technicians on department policies and procedures
- Demonstrate ultrasound equipment to visiting students from local high schools or colleges and universities
- Attend workshops to learn new ultrasound equipment or imaging procedures
- Attend professional conferences to network with healthcare professionals, learn industry trends, and get familiar with the latest research and technology
- Sooth patients who are irritated, uncomfortable, sick, and sometimes quite rude
- Develop and utilize personal strategies for communicating with patients who are hearing, speech, or vision impaired, or who are mentally challenged
Sonographers are increasingly working independently as the use of ultrasound imaging is expanded as a diagnostic tool. For example, the ARDMS Pediatric Sonography (PS) specialty exam was only added in 2015. In some healthcare settings, Diagnostic Medical Sonographers function like physician assistants to a large degree.
They also are working more often for non-radiologists because of the diagnostic capabilities sonographers offer. Mobile ultrasound units and the ability to transmit images from any location via satellite or the internet means sonographers can deliver healthcare services at almost any location.
Career Paths Can Lead Almost Anywhere Today
Sonographers who fully understand the official job description duties and the unofficial responsibilities will have more satisfying and fulfilling careers. There are a growing number of ultrasound career paths, specialties, and work location options.
In the real world, ultrasound techs are playing critical roles in healthcare facilities, and they are succeeding by blending their training with personal skills developed on-the-job. There are many job responsibilities that do not appear on the formal job description, but they are just as important for ensuring patients get only the best a sonographer can offer.