How to Choose an Accredited Ultrasound Tech Course Near Birmingham Alabama
Since you have decided to pursue an ultrasound technician degree near Birmingham AL, the next step is to start the procedure of choosing a school. To begin with, you have to find the right program that will furnish the proper education to become a qualified professional. And because some states do require that sonographers be either licensed or certified, depending on your residence you may also need to be prepared to pass a certification or licensing examination. So it's very important that you research each program so that you can assess and compare your alternatives. But just where does one begin? A number of potential students will begin by looking for schools that are within driving distance of their residences and then by comparing tuition. Of course cost and location need to be considered when arriving at a decision, but there are other significant factors as well. For instance, if the ultrasound technician schools have earned accreditation or if they provide internship programs. These and additional qualifiers will be covered more in detail later in this post. But to start with, let's discuss what an ultrasound tech does and the degrees and online education programs that are offered.
Sonographer Job Summary
There are multiple acceptable titles for ultrasound techs (technicians). They are also referred to as sonogram techs, diagnostic medical sonographers (or just sonographers) and ultrasound technologists. Regardless of name, they all have the same primary job function, which is to implement diagnostic ultrasound procedures on patients. Even though a number of techs work as generalists there are specialties within the field, for example in cardiology and pediatrics. Most practice in Birmingham AL hospitals, clinics, outpatient diagnostic imaging centers and even private practices. Routine daily job tasks of a sonogram technician can consist of:
- Keeping records of patient case histories and specifics of each procedure
- Counseling patients by explaining the procedures and answering questions
- Readying the ultrasound machines for usage and then sterilizing and re-calibrating them
- Moving patients to treatment rooms and ensuring their comfort
- Using equipment while limiting patient exposure to sound waves
- Reviewing the results and identifying need for further testing
Sonographers must regularly gauge the performance and safety of their equipment. They also must adhere to a high ethical standard and code of conduct as health practitioners. So as to maintain that degree of professionalism and remain up to date with medical knowledge, they are mandated to enroll in continuing education training on an ongoing basis.
Sonogram Technician Degrees Available
Sonogram technician students have the opportunity to acquire either an Associate Degree or a Bachelor's Degree. An Associate Degree will typically require around 18 months to 2 years to finish based upon the program and class load. A Bachelor's Degree will require more time at as long as four years to finalize. Another alternative 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 related medical sector, you can instead choose a certificate program that will require only 12 to 18 months to complete. One thing to bear in mind is that almost all sonographer schools do have a clinical training component as part of their course of study. It often may be fulfilled by taking part in an internship program which numerous colleges set up with Birmingham AL clinics and hospitals. After you have graduated from one of the certificate or degree programs, you will then need to satisfy the certification or licensing prerequisites in Alabama or whichever state you decide to work 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 Degrees
As previously mentioned, almost all sonogram tech colleges have a clinical component to their programs. So although you can earn a certificate or degree online, a substantial part of the training will be either carried out in an on campus lab or at an authorized off-campus facility. Clinical training can usually be satisfied by means of an internship at a local Birmingham ALhospital, outpatient clinic or family practice. But the balance of the classes and training can be accessed online in your Birmingham home. This is especially convenient for those students that keep working while getting their degrees. Plus online schools are many times less expensive than on campus alternatives. Costs for commuting and study materials may be decreased also. But similarly as with any sonographer program you are looking at, verify that the online program you enroll in is accredited. One of the most highly respected accrediting agencies is the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Accreditation is especially crucial for licensing, certification and job placement (more on accreditation later). So if you are dedicated enough to learn away from the classroom in the convenience of your own home, then an online degree could be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Ultrasound Tech Colleges
As soon as you have determined which certificate or degree that you would like to earn, you can start the procedure of evaluating and comparing sonogram tech colleges. You will first probably want to choose whether you will attend classes online or travel to a college campus in the Birmingham AL area. Obviously location will be significant if you choose the latter, and the price of tuition undoubtedly will be an important qualifier as well. But there are other factors that you must also take into account, for instance if the programs are accredited and if they offer internships. Therefore in order to perform your due diligence so that you can arrive at your ultimate selection, below are a few questions that you may want to ask each sonography program before deciding.
Are the Ultrasound Tech Programs Accredited? Most sonogram tech colleges have obtained some type of accreditation, whether national or regional. However, it's still crucial to make sure that the program and school are accredited. One of the most highly regarded 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 rigorous review of their instructors and course materials. If the program is online it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. All accrediting agencies should be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. Besides guaranteeing a premium education, accreditation will also help in securing financial aid and student loans, which are often not offered for non-accredited colleges. Accreditation can also be a pre-requisite for licensing and certification as required. And many Birmingham AL employers will only hire graduates of an accredited program for entry level jobs.
Are Internships Offered? Inquire if the sonogram technician schools you are interested in have partnerships with Birmingham AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent means to obtain practical experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a way to satisfy the clinical training requirement for the majority of programs. As an ancillary benefit, they can help graduates and students establish professional connections in the Birmingham healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the sonographer schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama healthcare employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the school they select will have to be within driving distance of their Birmingham AL residence. Individuals who have chosen to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. Something to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.
How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit far in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely want a small class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the colleges you are reviewing what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to converse with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the sonogram tech program as well.
Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the ultrasound tech college you finally choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Birmingham AL area, make certain that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would need to enroll in. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss due to work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Right Birmingham Ultrasound Tech Program
Enrolling in the right ultrasound technician certificate or degree program is an important first step to starting a rewarding new profession furnishing diagnostic services to patients. Ultrasound tech programs require that you have a high school diploma or equivalent. Apart from meeting academic standards, you must be in at least fairly good physical health, capable of standing for lengthy periods and able to routinely lift weights of 50 pounds or more, as is it typically necessary to position patients and maneuver heavy machines. Other helpful skills include technical aptitude, the ability to stay collected when confronted by an anxious or angry patient and the ability to communicate clearly and compassionately. As we have addressed in this article, there are a number of questions that you should ask each college you are reviewing. This holds true whether you choose an online degree or commute to the school campus to attend classes. And by asking the proper questions so that you can assess each college, you will be able to narrow down your choices 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 objective to practice as a sonographer in Birmingham Alabama.