Diagnostic Medical Sonography

10 October 2016

One of the main reasons for choosing a healthcare career in todays society, aside from the basic need for a self sustaining income, is the opportunity to make differences in peoples lives. With the demand for healthcare professionals and alternative medicines on the rise, so is the need for adequately educated trained personnel. Diagnostic Medical Sonography is becoming an increasingly attractive alternative to radiologic procedures such as x-ray and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

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Accounting for approximately 50,300 jobs in the United States in 2008, compared to the 214,000 jobs held by radiologic technicians, according to the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Sonography is a small yet rapidly growing field. In diagnostic imaging, there are several procedures that aid doctors in the diagnoses of ailments in patients. Radiology, commonly known as x ray, uses radiation to produce a picture on a film. Another common imaging method is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which uses giant magnets and radio waves to create an image.

However, sonography uses sound waves to generate an image. Through the use of special equipment and computers, diagnostic medical sonographers direct high frequency sound waves into parts of a patient’s body through a wand called a transducer. The transducer sends and receives reflected echoes of sound, much like a dolphin uses “echo-location” (Merton). The initial responsibility of a sonographer is to explain the procedure to the patient and obtain any additional medical history relevant to the exam.

During the exam a sonographer determines which sonogram images are of the best quality and documents any abnormal findings. Elizabeth Jackson, a graduate of diagnostic medical sonography, states “There is a diverse spectrum of anatomy a sonographer looks at every day which makes it essential that they know what they are looking at, what to look for, and what pathology looks like in order to convey what they see to the Radiologist to make an accurate diagnosis. ” Interpersonal skills and communications are vital to the success of the diagnostic process.

Detailed oriented individuals with biological science and mathematic backgrounds contribute to the field of sonography. The increasing demand for diagnostic imaging and therapeutic technology promises an exceptional outlook for sonographers. The majority of diagnostic medical sonographers are employed by hospitals, but accessibility to low-cost portable ultrasound equipment has led to a growing number of career opportunities at clinics and diagnostic centers (Rising Demand for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers).

They now have access to portable units as small as laptop computers making commuting from hospital bedsides to clinical practices easier. Since some sonographers make their own schedules through contracts with clinics, these portable units make traveling much more convenient. Less means more in terms of health risks. Unlike some imaging methods, sonography doesn’t involve radiation, harmful side effects, nor complications from repeated exposure for both patient and sonographer.

Although, due to repetitive movements they are unfortunately prone to musculoskeletal pains. In a report, Murphy and Russo show “In Figure 1 an illustration of the anatomical sites of discomfort reported by sonographers, showing that higher numbers of respondents experienced discomfort in the shoulder, neck, low back, wrist and hand/fingers. ” A sonographer must apply moderate pressure on areas of a patient’s body in order to get an accurate reading with the transducer. These ergonomic issues arise when sonographers are unaware of their body mechanics.

Fortunately, there are strategies that influence a better working environment. After evaluating the risks associated with becoming a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer some might find the monetary compensation, and the cost associated with obtaining the education comforting. The U. S Bureau of Labor Statistics also suggests, “ the middle fifty percent of sonographers earned between $52,570 and $73,680 in 2008. The earning potential of a sonographer is highly dependent upon their level of education.

Post secondary education is a must, therefore program or college tuition can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $30,000 depending upon the level of program chosen (What It Costs). The cost of obtaining a bachelors degree in diagnostic medical sonography equates to about half of an annual salary. Before entering the world of sonography, an individual must first decide which learning path is right for them. The educational journey for a sonographer may vary from one to four years depending upon the certificate or degree completed.

The typical educational path takes approximately two years (United States). The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography(ARDMS) recommends that a student attend programs governed by The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHP), considering the accreditation is a requirement for taking national registry exams. Prior to admission into a sonography program, the applicant must at least have a high school diploma or GED.

Individual schools have different criteria for entry into their program. For example, Delgado Community College requires one of three things: an associates degree, a bachelors degree or successful completion of their Radiologic Technology program. Hospitals may also offer a vocational program. It’s an acronym jungle for the potential sonographer. Upon successfully completing an accredited sonography program, a student has up to five years to apply and take their national registry exam.

Once the applicant has been accepted as a candidate by the American of Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS), he or she has only ninety days to actually take their exam. A candidate who successfully completes their exam earns the credentials of a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS), a Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer (RDCS), or a Registered Vascular Technologist (RVT). These credentials are dependent upon a graduates specific choice of modality in the field (Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography).

With technological advances leading to improved diagnostic capabilities, learning for a sonographer is perpetual. According to the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography, continuing education units are required to maintain their registered title. The ARDMS also mandates a minimum of thirty continuing education credits (CE’s) within a three year period from an accredited teaching facility. Failure of the sonographer in completing the CE requirements usually results in a temporary loss of their credentials and a fine assessed in addition to the regular fee of renewal.

So when doing research for a specific healthcare career, careful consideration of all variables is a must. With the growing demand for more outpatient diagnostic imaging sites and a alternative innovations, a sonographer can expect a variety of employment opportunities. It may be a toilsome path for some to walk, but the reward in assisting physicians to make a difference in peoples lives may be all it takes to obtain a sound career in diagnostic medical sonography.

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