How to Select the Best Ultrasound Technician Program Near Birmingham Alabama
Since you have made a decision to obtain an ultrasound technician degree near Birmingham AL, the next step is to start the procedure of picking a college. To begin with, you must find the right program that will furnish the proper training to become a skilled professional. And since a number of states do mandate that sonographers be either certified or licensed, depending on where you will practice you may also need preparation to pass a licensing or certification examination. So it's extremely important that you research each college so that you can evaluate and compare your choices. But exactly where does one start? A number of students will begin by searching for schools that are within travelling distance of their homes and then by comparing tuition. Naturally cost and location should be considered when arriving at a decision, but there are additional critical factors also. Such as, if the ultrasound technician schools are accredited or if they sponsor internships. These and other qualifications will be covered more in detail later in this article. But to start with, let's review what a sonogram tech does and the degrees and online training programs that are offered.
Ultrasound Technician Job Summary
There are more than one professional titles for ultrasound techs (technicians). They are also referred to as sonogram techs, diagnostic medical sonographers (or just sonographers) and ultrasound technologists. No matter what their title is, they all have the same primary job function, which is to perform diagnostic ultrasound techniques on patients. While many work as generalists there are specializations within the field, for instance in pediatrics and cardiology. Most practice in Birmingham AL clinics, hospitals, outpatient diagnostic imaging centers and even private practices. Typical daily work duties of an ultrasound technician can involve:
- Preserving records of patient medical histories and specifics of each procedure
- Counseling patients by explaining the procedures and answering questions
- Prepping the ultrasound machines for testing and then cleaning and re-calibrating them
- Escorting patients to treatment rooms and making them comfortable
- Operating equipment while limiting patient exposure to sound waves
- Evaluating results and identifying necessity for supplemental testing
Sonographers must routinely assess the performance and safety of their equipment. They also must adhere to a high ethical standard and code of conduct as medical practitioners. In order to maintain that level of professionalism and stay up to date with medical knowledge, they are mandated to complete continuing education courses on an ongoing basis.
Sonogram Tech Degrees Available
Sonogram tech students have the option to earn either an Associate or a Bachelor's Degree. An Associate Degree will typically involve around 18 months to 2 years to finish dependent on the program and class load. A Bachelor's Degree will require more time at up to 4 years to complete. Another option for those who have already obtained a college degree is a post graduate certificate program. If you have received a Bachelor's Degree in any major or an Associate Degree in a relevant health field, you can instead choose a certificate program that will require only 12 to 18 months to finish. Something to bear in mind is that the majority of ultrasound technician schools do have a clinical training component as part of their course of study. It can often be satisfied by participating in an internship program which many colleges organize with Birmingham AL hospitals and clinics. Once you have graduated from any of the degree or certificate programs, you will then have to satisfy the licensing or certification prerequisites in Alabama or whatever state you choose to practice in.
Ultrasound Technology Specialties
Ultrasound technology, or diagnostic sonography, has become more popular for diagnosing internal medical conditions because, unlike other medical imaging tools such as X-rays or CT Scans, ultrasound doesn’t expose the body to radiation. This safer approach has made ultrasound imaging the preferred method for testing pregnant women and infants, who have a higher risk for complications due to radiation. However, babies and expectant mothers are not the only ones who can benefit from ultrasound imaging and it is used in many ways to diagnose illness in the body. Following is a partial list of ultrasound technician education specialties available in the Birmingham AL area:
- Musculoskeletal sonographers can create real-time images of joint injuries, assisting orthopedic surgeons and sports physicians in their diagnosis and treatment.
- Abdominal sonographers specialize in generating images of abdominal internal organs and tissues, such as the pancreas, spleen, liver and gallbladder.
- Breast sonographers conduct ultrasound scans using a sound frequency specifically targeted for breast tissue to evaluate tumors and other abnormalities as a method of verifying or contradicting the results of a mammogram.
- Obstetrics/Gynecology sonographers work with women to scan their reproductive organs and assess the development and health of fetuses throughout the pregnancy.
- Echocardiography sonographers are trained in the imaging and evaluation of the heart, its valves and vessels, and the blood flow to and from the heart.
- Vascular technologists are trained to use ultrasound technology to identify damaged areas or blockages in blood vessels, and to gauge the flow of blood through veins and arteries.
- Ophthalmology sonographers conduct diagnostic tests on the eyes and surrounding muscles and tissue.
- Neurosonology sonographers are specially trained to use ultrasound imaging to detect blockages, tumors or abnormalities of the brain and spinal cord.
Sonographer Online Programs
As earlier discussed, almost all ultrasound technician schools have a clinical requirement to their programs. So while you can receive a certificate or degree online, a substantial part of the training will be either carried out in an on campus laboratory or at an authorized off campus facility. Practical training can usually be fulfilled by means of an internship at a local Birmingham ALhospital, outpatient clinic or private practice. However the remainder of the training and classes can be attended online in your Birmingham home. This is especially convenient for those students that continue working while obtaining their degrees. In addition online colleges are many times more affordable than on campus options. Costs for study materials and commuting can be lessened also. But just as with any ultrasound tech program you are considering, make sure that the online program you enroll in is accredited. Among the most highly regarded accrediting organizations is the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Accreditation is particularly significant for licensing, certification and finding employment (more on accreditation later). So if you are motivated enough to attend classes outside of the classroom in the comfort of your own home, then an online degree may be the right choice for you.
Topics to Ask Sonogram Tech Programs
Once you have determined the type of certificate or degree that you would like to obtain, you can initiate the procedure of assessing and comparing ultrasound tech colleges. You may first want to decide whether you will access classes online or travel to a college campus in the Birmingham AL area. Obviously location will be important if you decide on the latter, and the cost of tuition no doubt will be an initial qualification also. But there are additional variables that you must also take into account, for instance if the schools are accredited and if they offer internship programs. So in order to perform your due diligence so that you can make your final selection, following are a few questions that you need ask each ultrasound tech college prior to making a decision.
Are the Ultrasound Tech Schools Accredited? A large number of ultrasound tech colleges have received some type of accreditation, whether national or regional. Even so, it's still imperative to make sure that the program and school are accredited. One of the most highly respected accrediting organizations in the field of sonography is the Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (JRC-DMS). Programs receiving accreditation from the JRC-DMS have gone through a detailed assessment of their instructors and educational materials. If the program is online it might also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. All accrediting agencies should be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. In addition to guaranteeing a premium education, accreditation will also help in getting financial aid and student loans, which are frequently not available for non-accredited programs. Accreditation can also be a pre-requisite for licensing and certification as required. And many Birmingham AL health facilities will only hire a graduate of an accredited program for entry-level positions.
Are Internships Provided? Ask if the ultrasound technician colleges you are reviewing have associations with Birmingham AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent manner to get hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a means to satisfy the clinical training requirement for most programs. As an ancillary benefit, they can help students and graduates form professional relationships in the Birmingham medical community and assist with obtaining employment.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the sonographer programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama healthcare employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Program Located? For many students, the school they decide on will have to be within commuting distance of their Birmingham AL residence. Individuals who have opted to attend classes online naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.
What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit way in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the colleges you are looking at what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to talk with a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the ultrasound tech program also.
Does the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the ultrasound tech school you finally select can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you choose to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Birmingham AL area, check that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would need to carry. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Birmingham Ultrasound Technician Training
Selecting the ideal ultrasound tech degree or certificate program is a crucial first step to commencing a gratifying new career providing diagnostic services to patients. Ultrasound technician colleges require that you have a high school diploma or equivalent. Along with meeting academic standards, you must be in at least reasonably good physical condition, able to stand for prolonged durations and able to routinely lift weights of 50 pounds or more, as is it frequently necessary to position patients and move heavy equipment. Other desirable skills include technical proficiency, the ability to stay collected when faced with an anxious or angry patient and the ability to converse in a clear and compassionate manner. As we have covered in this post, there are multiple questions that you need to ask each program you are looking at. This is true whether you select an online program or drive to the college campus to attend classes. And by asking the right questions so that you can evaluate each school, you will be able to narrow down your options until you are left with the ideal program for your education. And with the right training, dedication and motivation to succeed, you can accomplish your goal to practice as a sonographer in Birmingham Alabama.