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.
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.
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
- 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.
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.
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.