Ultrasound technicians utilize special equipment to create images that are used for diagnostic purposes in the medical field. These professionals can choose a specialty to image certain parts of the body. For example, prenatal ultrasound technicians are responsible for creating intrauterine pictures to determine the health of an unborn baby. Becoming an ultrasound technician starts with an education at a two- or four-year school.
What Degree Do Ultrasound Techs Need?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that the type of degree needed may vary by state and even by the hospital for which a candidate would like to work. Some states require a certification that can be earned right out of high school, while other states require a two- or four-year degree. The coursework needed to become an ultrasound technician varies according to specialty.
Future ultrasound technicians can expect to take coursework in anatomy and physiology. Cambridge College of Healthcare and Technology notes that individuals pursuing a career as an ultrasound technician can also expect to complete coursework in pharmacology, physics and ultrasound specialties such as abdominal sonography.
The Path to Becoming an Ultrasound Tech
The first step in becoming an ultrasound technician is to complete secondary education. Schools offer both two- and four-year degrees in sonography. People who have already finished a degree program in health sciences may be able to complete a one-year certification program without having to start their education over.
A key component of becoming an ultrasound technician is completing clinical experience in a healthcare setting. Potential ultrasound technicians work together with experienced medical professionals to learn more about imaging. Not only does clinical experience give students the opportunity learn in a hands-on environment, but completing the clinical portion of a sonography education also allows students to get their foot in the door at medical facilities.
Once a student has earned a degree and completed up to 12 months of clinical experience, the next step is to earn a certification that demonstrates the technician’s ability to perform ultrasounds. These certifications are available for a wide range of specialties that fall under the sonography umbrella.
What Kind of Certifications Are Required?
Technicians have the opportunity to choose from one of three certification programs:
– American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) Certification
The ARDMS offers multiple certifications that allow technicians to demonstrate their expertise in a variety of specialties including abdomen, breast and pediatric sonography. Before the certification process, technicians must complete a two- or four-year program at an accredited college. A minimum of 12 months of clinical experience is also required before technicians can become certified.
– American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) Certification
The AART requires a two-year degree before technicians can become certified. The clinical experience requirement varies according to the specialty chosen. In addition, clinical experience requirements focus on specific procedures that must be completed a minimum number of times before an individual can receive their certification.
– Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) Certification
CCI focuses on cardiac sonography. Technicians who would like to demonstrate their expertise when it comes to cardiac imaging are best suited for this certification program. Besides education requirements, this certification also requires a minimum amount of full-time sonography experience before an individual can become certified.
All three of these certifications require continuing education as a part of maintaining the certification. Ultrasound technicians can choose coursework in their specialties to ensure that they are knowledgeable about the latest technology used to conduct ultrasounds. Depending on the type of certification, continuing education must be completed every three, six or 10 years.
A Day in the Life of an Ultrasound Tech
Anderson College of Health, Business and Technology explains that ultrasound technicians are a vital part of the healthcare system. The number of patients a technician may see in a day varies according to the setting; for example, an ultrasound technician seeing patients in an emergency room setting may have a significantly different patient load that a sonographer seeing scheduled patients in a prenatal office. Regardless of the number of patients seen in a day, the process of seeing patients throughout the day is typically the same.
Ultrasound technicians start each appointment by reviewing the patient’s chart to ensure that they are performing a thorough procedure on the targeted area. A patient’s chart will have vital information about their medical history, but ultrasound technicians should also ask questions directly to the patient to verify this information and gather more details.
Patients may be nervous about the ultrasound process. This is especially true when patients have not had an ultrasound performed in the past. Ultrasound technicians should explain the process to the patient before beginning to ease any fears. It is also essential that any questions the patient may have are answered during the process.
Ultrasound technicians may see patients who are seriously ill and are not expected to fully recover from their health issues. These patients may be particularly apprehensive about the ultrasound process, and technicians are expected to treat these individuals with respect and empathy. As with any medical profession, maintaining a positive bedside manner is essential.
Ultrasound technicians are responsible for capturing images that are then sent to a doctor to be interpreted. Technicians typically do not explain the results to the patient; doctors must review the results and provide an explanation to the patient.
Sonography can be a rewarding career for medical professionals who would like to create a positive experience for patients who may be going through tough times. The process of becoming an ultrasound technician starts with a formal education in either a two- or four-year program. Once students have completed their coursework, between 12 and 18 months of hands-on clinical experience in a medical setting is required. Ultrasound technicians can choose one or more certifications from an accredited organization to demonstrate their expertise in their chosen specialty. Completing the three-step process to becoming an ultrasound technician gives professionals the opportunity to show potential employers that they have the knowledge, expertise and experience needed to perform ultrasounds in a clinical setting.