How to Choose an Accredited Ultrasound Tech School Near Decatur Alabama
Once you have decided to obtain an ultrasound technician degree near Decatur AL, it's time to start the process of selecting a college. First, you need to find the right program that will provide the appropriate training to become a skilled professional. And since 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 licensing or certification exam. So it's extremely important that you investigate each college in order to assess and compare your choices. But exactly where does one begin? Most potential students will start by looking for colleges that are within driving distance of their homes and then by comparing tuition. Certainly cost and location need to be considered when arriving at a decision, but there are other critical factors also. Such as, if the ultrasound technician schools have earned accreditation or if they sponsor internship programs. These and other qualifications will be covered more in detail later in this post. But first, let's go over what an ultrasound tech does and the degrees and online training programs that are available.
Sonogram Tech Job Summary
There are various acceptable titles for ultrasound techs (technicians). They are also called sonogram techs, diagnostic medical sonographers (or just sonographers) and ultrasound technologists. Regardless of name, they all have the same basic job description, which is to perform diagnostic ultrasound procedures on patients. Even though many practice as generalists there are specialties within the field, for example in pediatrics and cardiology. The majority practice in Decatur AL clinics, hospitals, outpatient diagnostic imaging centers and even private practices. Typical daily work duties of a sonogram tech can involve:
- Maintaining records of patient case histories and specifics of each procedure
- Counseling patients by explaining the procedures and answering questions
- Preparing the ultrasound machines for testing and then sterilizing and re-calibrating them
- Escorting patients to treatment rooms and making them comfortable
- Utilizing equipment while minimizing patient exposure to sound waves
- Reviewing the results and identifying need for further testing
Sonographers must regularly assess the performance and safety of their machines. They also must adhere to a high professional standard and code of conduct as health practitioners. In order to maintain that degree of professionalism and stay current with medical knowledge, they are mandated to complete continuing education programs on an ongoing basis.
Ultrasound Tech Degree Programs Available
Sonogram tech students have the option to acquire either an Associate Degree or a Bachelor's Degree. An Associate Degree will typically require about 18 months to 2 years to finish depending on the program and class load. A Bachelor's Degree will take longer at as long as four years to finish. 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 related health field, you can enroll in a certificate program that will take just 12 to 18 months to complete. Something to bear in mind is that most ultrasound technician schools do have a practical training component as a portion of their course of study. It often may be satisfied by entering into an internship program which many colleges sponsor with Decatur AL hospitals and clinics. After you have graduated from any of the certificate or degree programs, you will then need to comply with the licensing or certification prerequisites in Alabama or whatever state you choose 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 Decatur 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.
Ultrasound Tech Online Degrees
As previously mentioned, virtually all ultrasound technician colleges have a practical component to their programs. So although you can obtain a degree or certificate online, a significant portion of the training will be either carried out in an on campus laboratory or at a sponsored off campus facility. Clinical training can typically be fulfilled by means of an internship at a local Decatur ALhospital, outpatient clinic or family practice. However the rest of the training and classes can be accessed online in your Decatur home. This is especially beneficial for those individuals that continue working while obtaining their degrees. In addition online schools are often less costly than traditional alternatives. Expenses for study materials and commuting may be lessened also. But similarly as with any sonography program you are considering, check that the online school you select is accredited. One of the most highly regarded accrediting organizations is the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Accreditation is particularly crucial for certification, licensing and job placement (more on accreditation later). So if you are disciplined enough to learn outside of the classroom in the comfort of your own home, then an online school may be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Ultrasound Tech Colleges
When you have decided on which certificate or degree that you would like to obtain, you can initiate the procedure of reviewing and comparing ultrasound technician schools. You may first want to decide whether you would rather attend classes online or travel to a college campus in the Decatur AL area. Obviously location will be significant if you select the latter, and the price of tuition no doubt will be an initial qualifier also. But there are additional variables that you should also take into consideration, such as if the schools are accredited and if they offer internships. Therefore in order to carry out your due diligence so that you can make your final selection, below are some questions that you need ask each sonographer college prior to making a decision.
Are the Ultrasound Technician Schools Accredited? The majority of sonogram technician schools have received some type of accreditation, whether regional or national. Even so, it's still imperative to confirm that the school and program are accredited. One of the most highly respected accrediting agencies in the field of sonography is the Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (JRC-DMS). Schools receiving accreditation from the JRC-DMS have gone through a detailed assessment of their teachers and course materials. If the school is online it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. All accrediting organizations should be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. Along with ensuring a superior education, accreditation will also assist in securing financial assistance and student loans, which are frequently not accessible for non-accredited programs. Accreditation might also be a pre-requisite for certification and licensing as required. And numerous Decatur AL health facilities will only hire a graduate of an accredited college for entry-level positions.
Are Internships Provided? Find out if the sonogram tech colleges you are assessing have relationships with Decatur AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific way to get practical training in a clinical environment, they are also a way to fulfill the practical training requirement for most programs. As a supplemental benefit, they can help students and graduates form professional connections in the Decatur medical community and help with obtaining employment.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the sonographer programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama healthcare employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? For many students, the college they decide on will have to be within commuting distance of their Decatur AL home. Individuals who have decided to attend classes online obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.
What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit way in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely want a smaller class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the schools you are looking at what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the ultrasound technician program as well.
Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the ultrasound tech college you finally select can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you opt to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Decatur AL area, verify that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would need to carry. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Decatur Ultrasound Tech Program
Enrolling in the ideal sonographer certificate or degree program is a vital first step to launching a gratifying new career furnishing diagnostic services to patients. Ultrasound tech colleges require that you have earned a high school diploma or equivalent. Along with meeting academic requirements, you should be in at least fairly good physical health, able to stand for prolonged time frames and able to regularly lift weights of fifty pounds or more, as is it typically necessary to adjust patients and move heavy machinery. Other helpful skills include technical aptitude, the ability to keep levelheaded when faced with an angry or anxious patient and the ability to converse in a clear and compassionate manner. As we have addressed in this post, there are a number of questions that you need to ask each program you are looking at. This is true whether you select an online degree or drive to the school campus to attend classes. And by asking the right questions so that you can compare each school, you can narrow down your options until you are left with the ideal program for your education. And with the right training, dedication and determination to succeed, you can accomplish your objective to practice as a sonographer in Decatur Alabama.