Jul 08

Ultrasound Technician Job Description: What Does an Ultrasound Tech Do?

An ultrasound technician, also known as a sonographer, is a healthcare professional who conducts ultrasound exams in order to help physicians diagnose and screen medical conditions.

Daily Tasks

On a daily basis, ultrasound technicians utilize ultrasound equipment to conduct exams on patients. This equipment sends out high-frequency sound waves that reflect off the internal body structures. Then, a computer takes these reflected sound waves and uses them to create an image of internal tissue within the patient’s body. Ultrasound images, also known as sonograms, can be used to diagnose a variety of conditions, such as cancer or heart disease, or to monitor fetal development in pregnancies.

Tasks performed by an ultrasound technician include:

  • Preparing patients for the ultrasound exam and explaining the procedure
  • Gathering patient histories
  • Using ultrasound equipment to scan the area of the body that is under examination
  • Analyzing ultrasound data
  • Archive ultrasound images on a computer
  • Provide an oral or written summary of the findings to the physician

What is an Ultrasound Exam?

When it is necessary to see inside a patient’s body, an ultrasound is often the preferred method. Unlike an x-ray, which uses radiation and can only record images of bones, an ultrasound does not use radiation and it can record images of organs, internal tissues, and blood flow. By sending high-frequency sound waves into the area under examination and recording the echoes that are returned, an ultrasound can provide a clear, detailed picture of internal soft tissues.

Patients and physicians increasingly prefer sonography to radiologic procedures. Sonography procedures, like three-dimensional and even four-dimensional ultrasound imaging exams, are viewed as non-invasive and safer for both the patient and the technician because there is no radiation involved in the process.

Specializations

Ultrasound procedures can examine various structures of the body, including the abdomen, heart, blood vessels, and female reproductive system. Different parts of the body require different techniques, so there are several major specializations that a sonographer can choose:

  • Abdomen & Breast
  • Fetal Echocardiography
  • Pediatric Echocardiography
  • Adult Echocardiography
  • Neurosonology
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Vascular Technology

The people who have chosen ultrasound technician careers as their own are a highly trained and specialized lot of professionals. The ultrasound technician job description only begins with the use of the sonographic equipment, and depending upon the work environment or their specialization, it can go far beyond just operating the machine on-call. If this is something you might be interested in pursuing, read on as we explain both the common and uncommon ultrasound technician job duties.

The Education Required For Ultrasound Technician Careers

Ultrasound technicians, otherwise known as diagnostic medical sonographers, use ultrasound technology to direct high-frequency sound waves into a patient’s body to produce various images created by the echoes being bounced back by the sound waves. Those images can be stored in computer libraries, reproduced through videotape and photographs, all so that the attending physician can conduct further testing with his patient, based on what he sees in those images.

what does ultrasound tech do

In order to help physicians analyze the images they take, the ultrasound technician job duties require them to be highly educated in their field, as well as keeping on top of new developments as the years pass. To begin, most applicants for these positions are required to have at least an Associate’s Degree in this field, or certification if already employed in the healthcare field. Coursework is available at most colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. After graduation, while not necessary, employers prefer to hire those who have been registered with the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers. Registration will require taking a written test that covers all knowledge and specializations in the field of ultrasound sonography.

ultrasound technician duties

Elements of an Ultrasound Technician Job Description

One of the most important elements in ultrasound technician job duties, outside of the implementation and analysis of the technology is their interaction with the patients that receive echo sonographic examinations. After seeing their doctor, patients will naturally be nervous going in for this kind of procedure, so the ability to not only put the patient at ease, but to establish a rapport with them is vital. During the procedure, you will have to assist the patient in moving and changing their positions for imaging, so kindness, gentleness and a clear desire for the patient’s comfort and needs is a definite asset.

Along with the collection of images, these technicians must also interview each patient, extract their medical history, and answer any questions or concerns that they may have. After the imaging session is over, the technician must prepare copies of the images recorded for the doctor, store copies in the computer, and send them to the medical records department. Along with the images, a written summary or oral recorded report must be sent to the doctor for their evaluation.

Lastly, another important part of an ultrasound technician job description is the care and maintenance of the ultrasound equipment. Calibrations are required after every patient, as well as the cleaning and sterilization of the patient table, and the transducer.

Jul 08

Ultrasound Technician Requirements

In the world of health care jobs, an ultrasound technician sits at or near the top of job possibilities that are in demand, yet don’t require long term schooling to get started. Sonography (ultrasound technology) is the usage of reflected sound waves to create images of the inside of the body. This great job does not pay a huge amount, but it is a solid career that serves well as a stepping stone to the future. The requirements to become an ultrasound technician are fairly straightforward, but there are many options that can greatly improve your odds of actually securing a position.

There are many different programs that can help you become a sonographer, but the more schooling you get the better. It helps to start studying in high school if you make the decision that early. You can take biology, general health courses or even chemistry to help prepare for this career. If you decide later in  life to become a sonographer, then you will need to check with your local college about what credits or schooling might transfer towards your studies.

The military is another avenue that can get you the right training to become a sonographer. This option is less than desirable for the majority of the population because it requires much more than just the schooling. If you are going into the military anyway, then sonography is a great area to study in while you are there.

ultrasound-technician-skills

College study is generally going to be a one year certificate program, a two year degree or a four year degree. By far, the four year degree is the best option and will provide you with the best job prospects upon graduation. It also will likely provide you the clinical work that is required as well. The one year certification programs are largely ineffective only because they are often looked down upon by potential employers and some are not even certified. Be sure to look into any course work you take ahead of time and make sure that you are being given the proper training.

The final step is to get certified by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) and the clinical training. This also provides you the option of showing your expertise in any sub-categories of sonography such as cardiac, abdominal or other specific areas of the body. This can truly elevate your standing as an ultrasound technician.

Median-earning-ultrasound-technician

The big reason so many people want this career is because of the explosion of jobs that are available each year. The career is one of the fastest growing and rewarding jobs in the health care field. The median income amount is about 65,000 per year. Ultrasound technicians are only going to rise in popularity with an aging population, so doing what you can to elevate your chances will be a huge benefit. Get the four year degree, do clinical work and get certified to boost your chances of finding the best jobs. Getting the short term version can certainly work if you get lucky and are up against others with similar experience. Otherwise your options might be fairly limited with a one year certification.

Jul 08

Ultrasound Technician Job Description

When you decide to take on the career of being an ultrasound technician, you quickly begin to realize that it is no cake walk. This job is one that demands total focus when you are working, dedication to your craft and a compassionate personality to deal with people in sometimes difficult, life-changing situations. The job description is certainly not simply lining people up and shooting a picture like some people think. It requires a great deal more from the perfect candidate.

Ultrasound tech job description

Where would an Ultrasound Technician be employed?

Ultrasound technicians, also called sonographers, are employed in a number of different places largely depending on the specialization that they are covering. Hospitals are certainly a primary employer as well as doctor’s office in private practice. Other employers include imaging centers, surgical centers, obstetricians, gynecologists and specialist’s offices of all kinds. Emergency rooms are an important employer for sonographers as well though they demand a very cool under pressure type of personality.

What type of personality must you have?

You need a number of personality traits to be a sonographer and you often use them all during a shift. You need to be calm, professional, patient, engaging, persistent, accurate and precise. All of these traits allow you to navigate a person’s body to find the area that needs to be diagnosed by the doctor. This often means moving in and around internal organs and occasionally seeing things that can be alarming or dangerous. You have to keep a calm demeanor and get that information to the doctor without alarming the patient.

ultrasound technician job duties

What are the primary job descriptions for the ultrasound technician?

Ultrasound technicians use high frequency sound to bring up visual images of internal organs, tissues and blood flow within a human body. They have to be creative in positioning the body to get the best possible images for doctors.

This is done by placing a wand (called a transducer) over the area that is being viewed and watching the images in real time on a screen.

This requires extensive knowledge of how to use the equipment, human anatomy and recognizing the different views of different parts of the body. Not every area shows up on screen in the same manner.

It also involves keeping the patient calm and explaining the procedure when asked. Keeping them at ease is vital to getting the information needed to make a proper diagnosis. Excellent judgment is required as well. You have to be the determining factor of whether enough information has been gathered for the doctor to make a proper diagnosis. This is not always easy to do.

Although the job is a tough one, being a sonographer is also very rewarding. Any career with a tough job description demands dedication and training, and being an ultrasound technician certainly fits that bill. If you are willing to put in the time and training, then you will have a career that will make you happy and challenged for a very long time to come.

Jul 08

How To Become An Ultrasound Technician

Becoming an ultrasound technician is something that can be extremely rewarding and requires a great deal of dedication. Sometimes called a sonographer, it helps to begin studying early on. Fortunately, even if you are late to the party you can still become a sonographer. Very popular, the job of ultrasound technician has a great future outlook, a relatively short period of study and pays fairly well. Getting started really depends on how soon you decide you want to get in the field.

how to become ultrasound tech

If you are still young and in school, then getting a high school diploma is a must-have. The basics are important such as mathematics, English and science, but you should also study computers, health care, biology and any other applicable courses. High school can prepare you a great deal for the wonderful world of sonography if you try to tailor your classes towards learning about the human body. Even chemistry can help you out a great deal.

Next, you will want to seek out an ultrasound technician program that is accredited by the CAAHEP. This is the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. You also need to get an Associate’s Degree ideally.  There are shorter programs out there if you want to take a shorter route, but they generally give you only a certificate. These are less desirable to potential employers upon completion but they can get your foot in the door on occasion. Certainly you are better off with a two year degree.

ultrasound-technician-process

Four year programs are by far the best because you are able to get extensive training. Coming out of those programs you will be highly in demand with potential hires.  Keep in mind that the shorter the program, the less desirable you will be right out of the gate. You will almost certainly be up against others with longer degrees if you take the short route. What you save in time you will almost certainly lose in salary and marketability for the better positions.

To really make your marketability soar, take the ARDMS testing exams. This is the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography exams and they will add quite a bit of luster to your resume. They are not required, but they are certainly worth your time. Not only will it increase your options as a sonographer, it will also help you to advance in the job once you get one.

This exam is also great for helping you to specialize in a particular area. Many sonographers want to work in an exact sub-science of the job. These might include ob-gyn, abdominal sonography, cardiac or any number of other options. You get to choose a sub-specialty to go along with the general classes and information you study for these exams.

If you have all of these things in your back pocket, then you are ready to head out and find a job with as a ultrasound technician. With such a rewarding career ahead of you, you are ready to make a real difference in the health care field.

 

Jul 08

Ultrasound Technician Certification

Getting certified as an ultrasound technician is pretty straightforward but that does not mean that it is simple. You have to get your schooling behind you and prepare for the test first. Once you have that behind you, then you sit for the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) exam. This exam and those that give it have been around as a not-for-profit since 1975 and provides the credentials that will determine your job future as a sonographer. This is the litmus test for sonographers nationwide.

There are a number of different awards or credentials that you could be given upon completion of the exam. The most common one is the RDMS credential. This is the basic certification and stands for Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer. This basically says that you passed the exam and are capable of doing the job at a base level.

The next credential is RDCS and it stands for Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer and it says that the student is capable of working in the specialty area of the heart. This is a highly sought after sub-category among potential employees.
How to get ultrasound technician Certification

Another credential is RVT. This is a sub-category that stands for Registered Vascular Technologist. This allows the student to be recognized in excellence with vascular sonography. There is also a physician’s credential that is RPVI. This is a Registered Physician in Vascular Interpretation.

Finally there is the RMSK credential and it stands for Registered in Musculoskeletal sonograpy. This is self explanatory and allows one to work with the muscles and skeletal types of sonography.

Each of these areas are all possible for the ultrasound technician to pursue and getting accredited in each of them could be a goal for the professional that wants to master the profession.

Ultrasound Technician certificate

The ARDMS has certified nearly 80,000 individuals and they are globally considered the standard in the profession. They are made up of three main groups.

  • One group is the Board of Directors. These folks are volunteers that are experts in their fields and they determine any policy or direction changes for the organization.
  • The Examination Development Task Forces handles all of the actual testing materials. They determine what should and should not be on the test.
  • Finally, a great staff of professionals handle the actual program implementation and takes care of the registrants. These folks are the nuts and bolts of the accreditation process.

Keep in mind that ultrasound technology is a very competitive and popular field so anything you can do to make your resume stand out can make a huge difference. When you go to apply for a job, one of the primary things they are going to look at is how long of a program you went through and what certification you have. If you come in with a six month certification, you are going to have a tough time competing against those with a four year degree and a couple of specialty certifications. Try to get as much experience and certifications as you can so that you can enhance the chances of getting a job you want.

Jul 08

Ultrasound Technician Training

Becoming an ultrasound technician is one of the most rewarding careers in the health care industry. Not only can you make decent money, but you can quickly move up the ladder of success and learn new and interesting things. Few jobs are afforded a better outlook financially, and even fewer careers have a better outlook as far as new job creation. Sonographers are in demand all over the place and there is little reason to expect that to change anytime soon. Training in this important health care field is the primary key to getting hired. The level of training courses that are out there vary wildly and knowing what to look for is very important. Here is a look at the sonography training that you need to look into if you want a career as an ultrasound technician:

ultrasound-technician-training

High School Diploma and Related Classes

The first thing you will want to do is ensure that you have your high school diploma. At a bare minimum this will be required and any related classes you can take will be beneficial as well. Any of the sciences will be highly helpful including physics, chemistry and particularly biology. You also will want to take any health care related electives that are available. In fact, some high end sonography jobs might even require nursing skills. Take all you can during high school.

Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP)

This accreditation is not required outright to work in the field, but it might as well be. Few employers will want to hire you without completing this, despite what many short term programs try to say. If a program offers up anything less than this, then you are wasting your time and money on it. Stick to the programs that give you this accreditation and you will be just fine.

ultrasound-technician-course

What about college?

By far a four year degree is your number one option to give yourself choices, but you can certainly begin with only a two year degree. Assuming you get the accreditation mentioned above, you can really go either way. A four year degree will afford you a great deal more options once you are ready to go to work, however. Is it worth the time? If more money and a better position are important to you, then yes it is.

Keep in mind that the certificates that are offered up in these short term courses are usually not nearly enough to get you a job. What would you rather have — a four year degree candidate that has full accreditation, or someone that took a eight week course and got a certificate?

What about specialization?

It is very common to want to go into a specific field of sonography and this can be done a number of ways. One way is to take the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography exams. These allow you to get advanced training and to learn about a specific sub-section of ultrasound technology such as ob-gyn, abdominal or cardiac to name a few. Getting these exams will also put you in another pay scale than you otherwise would be. Your resume will shine a great deal with this on there.  Once you are certified, then you can really write your own ticket to find the job you really want. They are in massive demand all across the country.