There are number of specialty medical fields that can lead to rewarding careers. One such specialized medical field is ultrasonography, often referred to as sonography.
Medical Sonography Schools By State
An Introduction To Diagnostic Medical Sonography
Sonography is the diagnostic medical procedure using high-frequency sound waves (or ultrasound) to create images of the body’s tissues, organs or blood flow. Sonography is used to examine several parts of the human body, including the chest, abdomen, heart, prostate, breasts, female reproductive system and blood vessels. Sonography has also been proven to be beneficial in early detection, diagnosis and treatment of such conditions as heart disease and related heart conditions and vascular disease, which has the potential to lead to risk of a stroke.
Sonography is also useful as a tool to guide fine needles during surgery and tissue biopsy where cells are taken from an organ for testing, such as testing for cancer in lung or breast tissue. Sonography is more detailed than X-rays and does not require radiation to produce images. Sonographers are non-professional technicians who are trained to perform this procedure on patients. Vascular technology is a specialized part of the sonography field requiring special training in producing images of blood vessels for testing purposes.
A sonographer is trained to use equipment that is capable of creating visual images of the structures of the inside of the body. Physicians then use these images to make an accurate medical diagnosis. The process requires a small device known as a transducer being placed on the area of the patient’s skin to be examined. A sound wave is transmitted into the body and these sound waves bounce off of the inside parts of the body and produce an image of the body’s internal structures. Different internal structures reflect sound differently, resulting in specific images created by a computer and viewed on a monitor and recorded on video.
Specialized Sonography Fields
Sonography has several specializations requiring specific training, but yielding higher salaries and in-demand career options. These include:
- Abdomen – Involves all soft tissues including abdominal organs and related blood vessels such as liver, urinary track, spleen and pancreas
- Breast – Involves examination of breast abnormalities found during mammography screenings
- Obstetrics/Gynecology – Involves the female reproductive system
- Echocardiography – Involves the general anatomy and blood flow of the heart, including blood vessels and valves
- Vascular Technology – Involves analysis of blood flow of the abdominal and peripheral blood vessels
- Neurosonology - Involves the spinal cord and brain
- Ophthalmology – Involves the eye and related orbital muscles and structures
Responsibilities Of A Medical Sonographer
While the overall responsibilities of a sonographer will vary somewhat, there are basic responsibilities that apply. These include:
- Obtaining, maintaining and recording an accurate account of the patient’s history
- Performing requested diagnostic procedures and obtaining images for those procedures
- Performing analysis of technical information obtaining as a result of these procedures
- Using judgment to extend the scope of the requested examination area when appropriate
- Providing both an oral and written summary of the findings based on the resulting medical images to physicians and other medical personnel
- Collaborating and conferring with physicians and other health care professionals
What Do I Need To Do To Get Started?
Basic Requirements To Become A Sonographer:
- A high school diploma (or GED) and completion of a program accredited by CAAHEP
- Cross-sectional anatomy along with pathology knowledge
- A knowledge of basic sciences and general computer literacy
- Hands-on experience through an internship
- Take and pass the national exam of the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
- Attain specialized certification if planning to specialize in a certain sonography field
- Attain a Bachelor of Science Degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography if looking for advancement
* Requirements will vary by state, with some only requiring certification.
Expect to spend 1-4 years preparing to be become a medical sonographer. You have the choice of attaining a degree or certificate. If you get a degree you will have more options in different sonography fields.
Career opportunities in the sonography field include hospitals, laboratories, doctor’s offices, pubic health facilities, research facilities and additional medical settings.
The average salary for a sonographer is approximately $61,984. This includes hourly salary, on-call pay and average overtime pay. The average hourly income is $29, while the the average amount of overtime hours is 3 (within a work week) and the average on-call rate is $3 an hour. The average call-rate is $42 an hour. Salaries will vary based on experience along with education and training.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/