How to Choose an Accredited Ultrasound Technician Degree Program Near Gardendale Alabama
Now that you have made a decision to pursue an ultrasound technician degree near Gardendale AL, the next step is to begin the process of choosing a school. To begin with, you have to find the right program that will provide the appropriate education to become a skilled professional. And since some states do require that sonographers be either licensed or certified, depending on where you will practice you may also need to be prepared to pass a licensing or certification exam. So it's extremely important that you investigate each program in order to assess and compare your options. But just where does one begin? Many individuals will begin by searching for schools that are within travelling distance of their homes and then by comparing tuition. Naturally cost and location must be considered when arriving at a decision, but there are other significant factors also. Such as, if the ultrasound technician schools are accredited or if they sponsor internship programs. These and additional qualifiers will be discussed more in depth later in this post. But to start with, let's review what a sonogram tech does and the degrees and online training programs that are offered.
Ultrasound Technician Work Summary
There are multiple acceptable titles for ultrasound techs (technicians). They are also called ultrasound technologists, sonogram techs, and diagnostic medical sonographers (or just sonographers). No matter what their title is, they all have the same primary job function, which is to perform diagnostic ultrasound testing on patients. Although many practice as generalists there are specialties within the profession, for instance in pediatrics and cardiology. Most practice in Gardendale AL clinics, hospitals, outpatient diagnostic imaging centers and even private practices. Common daily work tasks of a sonogram tech can consist of:
- Maintaining records of patient case histories and details of each procedure
- Counseling patients by explaining the procedures and answering questions
- Readying the ultrasound machines for use and then sterilizing and re-calibrating them
- Transferring patients to treatment rooms and ensuring their comfort
- Operating equipment while limiting patient exposure to sound waves
- Evaluating results and identifying necessity for further testing
Sonographers must routinely evaluate the safety and performance of their machines. They also must adhere to a high ethical standard and code of conduct as medical practitioners. In order to sustain that level of professionalism and stay up to date with medical knowledge, they are mandated to enroll in continuing education courses on an ongoing basis.
Ultrasound Tech Degrees Offered
Ultrasound technician enrollees have the opportunity to acquire either an Associate or a Bachelor's Degree. An Associate Degree will normally involve around 18 months to 2 years to accomplish depending on the course load and program. A Bachelor's Degree will take longer at as long as four years to finish. Another option for individuals who have already earned 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 require just 12 to 18 months to complete. One thing to consider is that almost all sonographer programs do have a clinical training element as part of their curriculum. It can often be satisfied by entering into an internship program which many colleges sponsor through Gardendale AL clinics and hospitals. Once you have graduated from one of the certificate or degree programs, you will then need to fulfill the licensing or certification requirements 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 Gardendale 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 aforementioned, virtually all ultrasound technician colleges have a practical component to their programs. So although you can obtain a certificate or degree online, a significant portion of the training will be either held in an on-campus lab or at an authorized off-campus medical care provider. Practical training can usually be fulfilled by means of an internship at a local Gardendale ALhospital, outpatient clinic or private practice. But the remainder of the classes and training may be attended online in your Gardendale home. This is especially beneficial for those individuals that keep working while earning their degrees. Plus online schools are frequently less costly than on campus options. Costs for study materials and commuting may be lessened also. But similarly as with any sonography school you are reviewing, confirm that the online program you ultimately pick is accredited. One of the most highly regarded accrediting agencies is the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Accreditation is particularly crucial for licensing, certification and finding employment (more on accreditation later). So if you are motivated enough to learn away from the classroom in the convenience of your own home, then an online school could be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Sonography Colleges
As soon as you have decided on which degree or certificate that you would like to obtain, you can initiate the procedure of reviewing and comparing ultrasound tech schools. You will first probably want to choose whether you will attend classes online or commute to a school campus in the Gardendale AL area. Naturally location will be significant if you select the latter, and the price of tuition no doubt will be an important qualifier also. But there are other things that you must also take into consideration, such as if the colleges are accredited and if they sponsor internships. So in order to carry out your due diligence so that you can make your final selection, following are several questions that you may want to ask each ultrasound tech program prior to making a decision.
Are the Sonogram Technician Programs Accredited? Most ultrasound tech colleges have acquired some type of accreditation, whether national or regional. Nevertheless, it's still important to make sure that the program and school are accredited. Among 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 earning accreditation from the JRC-DMS have undergone a rigorous assessment of their teachers and educational materials. If the school is online it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. All accrediting agencies should be acknowledged 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 acquiring financial aid and student loans, which are often not available for non-accredited programs. Accreditation can also be a pre-requisite for licensing and certification as required. And many Gardendale AL health facilities will only hire graduates of an accredited school for entry level positions.
Are Internships Sponsored? Inquire if the ultrasound tech schools you are assessing have relationships with Gardendale AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific means to obtain hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are also a means to fulfill the practical training requirement for the majority of programs. As a supplemental benefit, they may assist students and graduates develop professional relationships in the Gardendale health care community and help with job placement.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the sonographer schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama healthcare employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the school they select will need to be within driving distance of their Gardendale AL residence. Individuals who have opted to attend online classes naturally will not have to concern 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 decide 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 often charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within 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 probably want a small class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the schools you are looking at what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the ultrasound technician program as well.
Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the sonographer program you finally choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Gardendale AL area, make sure that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to carry. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Right Gardendale Ultrasound Tech Program
Choosing the ideal sonographer certificate or degree program is an important first step to entering a fulfilling new career providing diagnostic services to patients. Sonographer programs require that you have earned a high school diploma or a GED. Along with meeting academic requirements, you should be in at least reasonably good physical condition, capable of standing for prolonged durations with the ability to routinely lift weights of 50 pounds or more, as is it frequently necessary to adjust patients and move heavy machinery. Additional preferred talents include technical aptitude, the ability to stay calm when faced with an angry or anxious patient and the ability to communicate clearly and compassionately. As we have covered in this article, there are several questions that you need to ask each program you are reviewing. This holds true whether you enroll in an online program or drive to the college campus to attend classes. And by asking the proper questions so that you can evaluate each college, you can narrow down your options until you are left with the ideal school for your education. And with the proper training, dedication and motivation to succeed, you can achieve your objective to work as an ultrasound technologist in Gardendale Alabama.