An ultrasound technician scans the bodies of patients using sound waves, producing images that doctors use as basis to diagnose and assess the fetal health among expectant moms or medical conditions in other patients. Ultrasound technicians are also called as sonographers. They are usually employed in obstetrics, although they can also work in other health facilities or offices.
How to Become an Ultrasound Technician in USA
To become an ultrasound technician, one needs to have at least a high school diploma or GED. It is also a must to have a good GPA and a high SAT/ACT score to get admitted to college. For those who are interested in this field, it helps to take scientific-oriented courses, such as biology, physics, and math, in high school, as in other medicine-related courses.
Ultrasound technicians can be trained in colleges or universities, vocational-technical institutions, hospitals, or the Armed Forces. Those with medical experience can obtain a certificate in diagnostic medical sonography within a year, while those who are just starting out will need an associate’s or bachelor’s degree to get a certificate.
The typical courses offered to help students have a better understanding of the human anatomy include the following:
- Human anatomy
- Abdominal and obstetrical sonography
- Medical terminology
- Supervised clinical practice
- Physiology of disease
- Vascular technology
- Ultrasound physics
- Computing skills
- Professional ethics
Aside from classroom studies, students must also take supervised clinical practice. They will be under the supervision of licensed ultrasound technicians as you obtain hands-on experience. During this time, they will be exposed to real-life situations. The usual hands-on duration is between 800 and 1500 hours. They will assist several medical institutions to give them a wide range of patients, facilities, and circumstances.
Sonography also has certain physical requirements such as the following:
- Assist lift heavy patients and move equipment during the shift
- Nonstop standing, walking, bending, reaching, and crouching during the shift
- Neat physical appearance
- Ability to read sonographic images in gray scale
- Sharp hearing skills to distinguish Doppler sounds
- Excellent communication skills to make the patients feel comfortable
Online Courses for an Ultrasound Technician
There are available online degree programs in medical sonography, but they are relatively rare. Most of these programs focus more on medical terminology, ultrasound procedures, and sonographic instrumentation.
Those who take a two-year online program in diagnostic medical sonography will lead to an Associate of Science or Associate of Applied Science degree. There are also online programs that offer certificates in diagnostic medical sonography aside from an associate’s degree. Read more about schools for ultrasound technicians.
There are distance education programs for an associate’s degree in diagnostic medical sonography that combine online and on-campus classes. They usually include a clinical experience at a local imaging center, clinic or hospital and take two years to finish.
Program coursework for these programs often includes introductory courses in sonographic procedures and instrumentation, sectional anatomy, medical terminology, pathophysiology, imaging ethics, and sonographic physics.
Importance of Getting a Certification
It is not enough to complete educational studies. One needs to be certified or licensed. The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography can provide it, for as long as you pass an exam about your command of sonography practices and techniques. Those who fail the test will still get to take the exam until they pass.
Ultrasound technicians can significantly boost their professional credentials upon getting a certification in an area that they choose to specialize in, such as abdominal sonography. Although certification is not always required, most employers will likely look more in favor of someone with a specialization and certification.
This professional certification must be maintained by taking continuing education classes. The ARDMS requires 30 continuing medical education credits every three years. CMEs can be earned by getting additional certifications or enrolling in classes through accredited sponsors. Every time a student obtains certification, he or she earns 15 CMEs. Fees do vary from class to class.