How To Become A Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
Career Video: Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
If you want to work in a career that enables you to combine healthcare with the use of sophisticated medical technology, you can consider becoming sonographer. Officially known as a diagnostic medical sonographer, your main task in this profession is to produce images of the organs and tissues of the human body through the use of advanced medical imaging equipment. You will be manipulating the ultrasound transducer on the patient’s body which produces sound pulses that causes echoes. The ultrasound machine then processes these echoes and displays them as images which doctors later interpret so they can accurately diagnose the patient’s condition. Before the procedure, you will be taking the patient’s medical history and putting him at ease by explaining the procedure and answering any questions he may have about it.
Diagnostic medical sonographers can choose to specialize in getting sonograms of various body parts. If you want to become an abdominal sonographer, you will be tasked with obtaining images from the patient’s abdominal cavity and the organs close by like the kidneys, gallbladder, liver, spleen and pancreas. You may also opt to become a breast sonographer and get images of breast tissues. Muscoskeletal sonographers take sonograms of muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints while neurosonographers specialize in creating images of the brain and spinal cord. If you are an obstetric and gynecologic sonographer, you will be getting sonograms of the female reproductive system, especially with those of pregnant women to monitor the health and growth of the child in her womb. Regardless of the specialization, you will be working with other members of the patient’s healthcare team to plot the best course of treatment.
To succeed as a sonographer, you need to be detail-oriented. You have to follow accurate procedure to be able to come up with the right images that physicians will be able to use for correctly diagnosing patients. This is because the difference between healthy and diseased tissues and organs may not be readily apparent from the images you get. You also need to have excellent hand-eye coordination since you will be moving the transducer along the patient’s body based on the image projected on the screen. Obviously, you need to possess the technical knowledge and skills in handling sophisticated equipment to come up with quality images. Since you are dealing with people who are suffering, you also need to be compassionate and possess good interpersonal skills to encourage patients to stay still while you do the scanning so that you can come up with good images in spite of the discomfort they feel.
Why Become A Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
When a physician suspects that a patient is suffering from a particular kind of disease, one of the first imaging tests he orders is that of a sonogram. This makes a sonographer a very important part of the healthcare team. A sense of meaning is felt when you know that your job has a higher purpose than merely coming up with images on the screen. The sonograms you produce comprise the first step towards a patient’s road to recovery.
On the more practical aspect, one reason to become a sonographer the fact that it pays relatively well. It is also projected to give numerous employment opportunities in the coming years as it is a fast-growing field.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Work Environment
Diagnostic medical sonographers work in hospitals and other healthcare facilities. They may also work in doctor’s offices as well as medical and diagnostic laboratories. Their workspace is often lit dimly and has a bed for the patient to lie in as well as the diagnostic imaging equipment by the side. If the patient cannot be moved from his or her room, the sonographer may conduct the imaging procedures by their bedside. They need to be strong and healthy as they may assist patients who can’t move by themselves if images need to be taken that require turning from one position to another. Sonographers work fulltime during regular hours but like any healthcare career, they may be asked to work on weekends, evenings and holidays.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Salary
The May 2013 Occupational Employment and Wages report of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that diagnostic medical sonographers received a mean annual wage of $67,170. This is higher than the $53,990 paid to cardiovascular technologists and technicians, a related occupation that specializes in creating images, doing tests and assisting with heart-related surgical operations.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Career Outlook
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has forecasted that there will be a burgeoning of job opportunities for diagnostic medical sonographers from 2012 to 2022. In that time period, the employment rate is expected to grow 46 percent, a rate that is much faster than the average for all job types. Thus, from the 58,800 sonographers employed in 2012, the number is expected to grow to 85,900 in 2022.
The demand will come from the advancement of imaging technology which will now be used to take the place of invasive and expensive surgical procedures. In addition to hospitals, physicians offices and medical and diagnostic laboratories will also be using imaging equipment for outpatient care services, contributing to the demand for sonographers. The aging population, which will be more prone to various medical conditions that need to be diagnosed with imaging technology will also fuel demand. The demand for sonographers will also come from the developments in federal health legislation which will lead more patients to seek medical care.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Degree
An entry point towards becoming a diagnostic medical sonographer is an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in sonography which can be obtained from accredited hospital programs or institutes. Aside from classroom instruction, these programs also have a hands-on clinical component that enables students to work with seasoned sonographers. Getting professionally certified in one of the specialized fields of sonography—e.g. abdominal sonography, breast sonography—is important in getting a job. This is because insurers and Medicare will only cover procedures that are performed by certified sonographers. Certification is given only after a student has graduated from an accredited program and passed an exam. Some states even require sonographers to get a license. In states that do, a professional certification is necessary in order for a license to be issued.