If you want an occupation that enables you to help physicians diagnose disease conditions accurately, you can consider a career as an ultrasound technician. In this profession, you will have the opportunity to operate sonographic scanners which can capture pictures of the internal organs of a patient. You use a scanning unit known as a transducer or a probe which can gather sound waves of a particular area. These echoes are then translated to form images which are displayed on the attached monitor.
As an ultrasound technician or diagnostic medical sonographer, it is your duty to explain to the patient the procedure beforehand. This is important so that the patient will know what to expect and more importantly, will cooperate. You are expected to scan the areas that the physician will ask you to thoroughly so that he can make an accurate diagnosis.
In the event that the image quality is poor or the area under scrutiny has not been thoroughly covered, it is your job to redo the test. Depending on the instruction of the attending physician, you can do a video recording of the internal organ or get still photos known as sonograms of the internal body part.
You have the choice to specialize in this career. You can become an abdominal sonographer, breast sonographer, musculoskeletal sonographer, neurosonographers or an obstetric and gynecologic sonographer. Whatever field you specialize in, you need to have the ability to spot the little details. The differences between a healthy tissue and an unhealthy one are often very subtle.
When doing your scans, you should be able to see these seemingly negligible differences and get clearer shots of the area to aid the physician in making a correct diagnosis. Since you will be dealing with people who are in physical pain or under a lot of emotional stress because of a possible sickness, you need to be patient and compassionate.
Why Become An Ultrasound Technician
As an ultrasound technician, you will be working closely with a patient’s attending physician in coming up with a precise diagnosis. This makes you a very integral member of a patient’s healthcare team. Most of the time, you will be one of the first people to know what he is going through. The chance to comfort someone undergoing one of the most difficult moments in life makes this career very meaningful.
Another reason to pursue a career as an ultrasound technician is the fact that it is a fast-growing occupation that will open up a lot of employment opportunities in the next few years. It is also a well-paying profession. Those who want to work in the healthcare industry but don’t want to have to go through the lengthy educational process of becoming a physician will find this career an appealing substitute since it will only take one four years of study at the most to become one.
Ultrasound Technician Work Environment
Majority of ultrasound technicians are employed with hospitals. However, there are physicians’ offices, medical and diagnostic laboratories and other healthcare settings who also hire them. They usually work in dimly-lit rooms equipped with the diagnostic imaging equipment and a bed for the patient. While patients are generally brought to the sonography room, there may be times when they would have to do the procedure at the bedside of the patient when it is not possible to physically bring the person to the ultrasound room under the orders of the doctor.
The ultrasound technician usually stands while doing the scans. He may also have to assist the patient who can’t move by himself or is in pain in order to get the best images. As such, a technician needs to be physically fit and healthy.
Ultrasound technicians work fulltime. However, their schedule may not necessarily be in the mornings. As in any healthcare job, they may be asked to take the evening shift or work weekends. If they are on-call, they need to be ready to go to the hospital any time they are needed.
Ultrasound Technician Salary
The Occupational Employment and Wages report of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the mean annual wage of diagnostic medical sonographers was $67,170. This is higher than the $56,760 received by radiologic technologists and the $65,960 paid to magnetic resonance imaging technologists. Ultrasound technicians also got higher pay than cardiovascular technologists and technicians whose mean annual wage was $53,990.
In 2012, the agency reported that the top ten percent of ultrasound technicians earned median annual wages of over $91,070 while the lowest ten percent received less than $44,990. During this year, the median annual wage for diagnostic medical sonographers was $65,860.
Ultrasound Technician Career Outlook
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed a very positive job outlook for ultrasound technicians. The employment rate is expected to grow 46 percent in the ten-year period covering 2012 to 2022, a rate that is very much faster than the average for all occupations. Thus, from the 58,800 diagnostic medical sonographers employed in 2012, their number is expected to rise to 85,900 in 2022.
The demand for ultrasound technicians will come from the advancement of medical technology, particularly in the realm of imaging technology. Because of the rise of cheaper and noninvasive measures brought about by imaging technology, more procedures are now performed outside of hospitals. As a result, there will be a need for diagnostic medical sonographers not only in hospitals but in doctors’ offices and diagnostic laboratories as well.
Another contributor to the demand for ultrasound technicians is the growing population of the elderly who will be more prone to various medical ailments that will require the use of imaging technology to diagnose. In addition, there will be more patients getting access to medical care because of more patients having insurance coverage due to federal healthcare legislation.
Ultrasound Technician Degree
Ultrasound technicians gain access to the profession by getting either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in sonography. For those who are already employed in a related healthcare job, it is possible to become an ultrasound technician by enrolling in a one-year certificate program. Programs in sonography teach students topics on medical terminology, anatomy and the applied sciences.
Students also need to choose their area of specialization—abdominal, breast, neurosonography, musculoskeletal or obstetrics and gynecology—when they enroll in the program. In these programs, students are also given hands on experience by letting them work in hospitals, doctors’ offices or imaging laboratories under the guidance of seasoned technologists in exchange for credits.
Certification is vital for ultrasound technicians. This is because most employers hire only those who are professionally certified inasmuch as insurers and Medicare only cover diagnostic imaging procedures if they are done by certified technicians. Requirements for certification include finishing an accredited program and passing a test related to the specialization he wants to be in.
While ultrasound technicians typically specialize only in one field (e.g. breast sonography), they have the option to become certified in others. In the states where ultrasound technicians need to be licensed, a professional certification is also a prerequisite to licensure.