How to Enroll in the Right Sonography School Near Gulf Shores Alabama
Now that you have decided to pursue an ultrasound technician degree near Gulf Shores AL, the next step is to begin the process of picking a school. First, you need to find the ideal program that will provide the proper instruction to become a qualified professional. And since some states do mandate that ultrasound techs be either certified or licensed, depending on where you will practice you may also need preparation to pass a certification or licensing examination. So it's extremely important that you research each school so that you can evaluate and compare your options. But exactly where does one begin? Most potential students will begin by searching for colleges that are within travelling distance of their homes and then by comparing tuition. Naturally location and cost should be considered when arriving at a decision, but there are additional important factors as well. For example, if the ultrasound technician schools have earned accreditation or if they sponsor internships. These and additional qualifiers will be addressed more in depth later in this article. But to start with, let's discuss what a sonogram tech does and the degrees and online education options that are offered.
Ultrasound Tech Work Summary
There are more than one acceptable titles for ultrasound techs (technicians). They are also referred to as ultrasound technologists, sonogram techs, and diagnostic medical sonographers (or just sonographers). Regardless of name, they all have the same primary job description, which is to carry out diagnostic ultrasound procedures on patients. Even though a number of techs practice as generalists there are specialties within the field, for instance in cardiology and pediatrics. The majority work in Gulf Shores AL clinics, hospitals, private practices or outpatient diagnostic imaging centers. Common daily work duties of an ultrasound tech can consist of:
- Keeping 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
- Evaluating results and determining need for supplemental testing
Ultrasound techs must routinely assess the performance and safety of their equipment. They also must adhere to a high professional standard and code of conduct as medical practitioners. So as to sustain that degree of professionalism and remain current with medical knowledge, they are required to enroll in continuing education courses on an ongoing basis.
Sonogram Tech Degree Programs Offered
Sonogram technician students have the opportunity to earn either an Associate or a Bachelor's Degree. An Associate Degree will usually take about 18 months to 2 years to complete dependent on the program and class load. A Bachelor's Degree will take longer at up to four years to finish. Another alternative for those who have already obtained a college degree is a post graduate certificate program. If you have earned a Bachelor's Degree in any major or an Associate Degree in a related health field, you can instead choose a certificate program that will take only 12 to 18 months to complete. One thing to keep in mind is that most ultrasound technician schools do have a practical training component as part of their course of study. It can often be satisfied by taking part in an internship program which many schools organize through Gulf Shores AL clinics and hospitals. When you have graduated from any of the certificate or degree programs, you will then need to fulfill the certification or licensing requirements in Alabama or whatever state you elect 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 Gulf Shores 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.
Online Sonogram Tech Degrees
As earlier discussed, virtually all ultrasound technician schools have a practical component to their programs. So although you can receive a degree or certificate online, a significant portion of the training will be either conducted in an on-campus laboratory or at a sponsored off campus medical care provider. Practical training can usually be satisfied by means of an internship at a local Gulf Shores ALhospital, outpatient clinic or private practice. But the rest of the classes and training may be attended online in your Gulf Shores home. This is especially convenient for those students that keep working while getting their degrees. Plus online programs are often less costly than on-campus options. Expenditures for commuting and study materials may be decreased also. But just as with any sonography college you are reviewing, verify that the online program 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 significant for licensing, certification and job placement (more on accreditation later). So if you are motivated enough to attend classes away from the classroom in the convenience of your own home, then an online school may be the right choice for you.
Subjects to Ask Sonogram Tech Schools
As soon as you have determined the type of degree or certificate that you would like to obtain, you can begin the process of assessing and comparing ultrasound technician schools. You may first want to decide whether you would rather access classes online or commute to a college campus in the Gulf Shores 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 account, for instance if the programs are accredited and if they provide internships. So in order to carry out your due diligence so that you can arrive at your final selection, below are a few questions that you need ask each ultrasound tech program before deciding.
Are the Sonogram Technician Schools Accredited? Most sonogram tech schools have acquired some type of accreditation, whether national or regional. Even so, it's still crucial to make sure that the program and school 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). Programs earning accreditation from the JRC-DMS have gone through a rigorous evaluation of their teachers and educational materials. If the program is online it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. All accrediting agencies should be acknowledged by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. Along with guaranteeing a premium education, accreditation will also help in securing financial aid and student loans, which are frequently not accessible for non-accredited programs. Accreditation can also be a pre-requisite for licensing and certification as required. And many Gulf Shores AL health facilities will only hire graduates of an accredited school for entry-level jobs.
Are Internship Programs Provided? Find out if the sonogram technician colleges you are evaluating have relationships with Gulf Shores AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific means to receive practical experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a means to satisfy the clinical training requirement for the majority of programs. As a supplemental benefit, they can help students and graduates form professional relationships in the Gulf Shores medical community and help with job placement.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the ultrasound tech programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama healthcare employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the school they decide on will need to be within travelling distance of their Gulf Shores AL home. Students who have decided to attend online classes naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.
What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the sort of person that prefers to sit way in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Smaller 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 classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with several of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the ultrasound tech program also.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the ultrasound tech college you finally choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you decide to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Gulf Shores AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would have to carry. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Gulf Shores Ultrasound Technician Program
Picking the ideal sonographer certificate or degree program is a crucial first step to entering a gratifying new career providing diagnostic services to patients. Ultrasound technician colleges require that you have a high school diploma or equivalent. Apart from meeting academic standards, you must be in at least reasonably good physical health, able to stand for extended periods and able to regularly lift weights of 50 pounds or more, as is it frequently necessary to position patients and move heavy machines. Additional helpful skills include technical proficiency, the ability to keep collected when confronted by an anxious or angry patient and the ability to communicate in a clear and compassionate manner. As we have addressed in this post, there are multiple questions that you should ask each college you are reviewing. This is true whether you select an online program or travel to the college campus to attend classes. And by asking the proper questions so that you can compare each college, you can narrow down your alternatives until you are left with the best school for your education. And with the proper training, dedication and determination to succeed, you can reach your objective to work as an ultrasound technologist in Gulf Shores Alabama.