How to Choose the Right Sonography School Near Helena Alabama
Now that you have decided to obtain an ultrasound technician degree near Helena AL, it's time to begin the procedure of picking a college. First, you must find the right program that will provide the appropriate training to become a qualified professional. And since some states do require that ultrasound techs be either licensed or certified, depending on where you will practice you may also need preparation to pass a licensing or certification exam. So it's very important that you research each college in order to evaluate and compare your options. But just where does one begin? Most potential students will begin by searching for colleges that are within commuting distance of their homes and then by comparing tuition. Naturally cost and location must be taken into account when making a decision, but there are other critical factors as well. For example, if the ultrasound technician schools are accredited or if they provide internships. These and additional qualifications will be covered more in depth later in this article. But first, let's review what an ultrasound tech does and the credentials and online training programs that are available.
Ultrasound Tech Work Summary
There are multiple professional 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 carry out diagnostic ultrasound procedures on patients. While a number of techs practice as generalists there are specializations within the profession, for example in cardiology and pediatrics. The majority work in Helena AL clinics, hospitals, outpatient diagnostic imaging centers and even private practices. Typical daily job tasks of an ultrasound tech may include:
- Preserving records of patient medical histories and details of each procedure
- Counseling patients by explaining the procedures and answering questions
- Prepping the ultrasound machines for testing and then sterilizing and recalibrating them
- Transferring patients to treatment rooms and ensuring their comfort
- Operating equipment while limiting patient exposure to sound waves
- Evaluating results and identifying need for further testing
Ultrasound techs must regularly evaluate the performance and safety of their machines. They also are held to a high professional standard and code of conduct as medical practitioners. In order to maintain that degree of professionalism and remain current with medical knowledge, they are mandated to enroll in continuing education training on an ongoing basis.
Ultrasound Technician Degrees Available
Sonogram technician enrollees have the option to acquire either an Associate Degree or a Bachelor's Degree. An Associate Degree will generally require around 18 months to 2 years to accomplish depending on the program and class load. A Bachelor's Degree will require more time at as long as 4 years to finalize. Another option for those who have already earned 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 relevant medical sector, you can enroll in a certificate program that will require just 12 to 18 months to finish. Something to keep in mind is that most sonographer colleges do have a clinical training element as a portion of their course of study. It often may be fulfilled by taking part in an internship program which numerous schools sponsor with Helena AL clinics and hospitals. After you have graduated from any of the certificate or degree programs, you will then have to satisfy the certification or licensing requirements in Alabama or whichever state you decide 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 Helena 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 Ultrasound Technician Classes
As earlier discussed, virtually all ultrasound technician colleges have a clinical requirement to their programs. So although you can earn a certificate or degree online, a significant portion of the training will be either held in an on-campus lab or at an approved off-campus medical care provider. Clinical training can usually be fulfilled by means of an internship at a local Helena ALoutpatient clinic, hospital or private practice. However the remainder of the training and classes can be attended online in your Helena home. This is particularly beneficial for those individuals that continue working while getting their degrees. Plus online colleges are often less costly than on campus options. Costs for study materials and commuting can be reduced as well. But just as with every ultrasound tech program you are considering, check 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 job placement (more on accreditation later). So if you are dedicated enough to attend classes away from the classroom in the convenience of your own home, then an online degree may be the ideal choice for you.
Subjects to Ask Sonogram Tech Programs
As soon as you have determined the type of degree or certificate that you would like to earn, you can initiate the process of assessing and comparing sonogram tech schools. You will first probably want to decide whether you will attend classes online or travel to a school campus in the Helena AL area. Of course location will be significant if you choose the latter, and the cost of tuition no doubt will be an initial qualification as well. But there are other factors that you should also take into account, for example if the schools are accredited and if they provide internship programs. Therefore in order to complete your due diligence so that you can make your final selection, below are some questions that you may want to ask each sonographer program prior to making a decision.
Are the Sonogram Tech Schools Accredited? A large number of sonogram tech schools have received some type of accreditation, whether regional or national. Even so, it's still important to confirm 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). Schools earning accreditation from the JRC-DMS have undergone a rigorous evaluation of their teachers and course materials. If the program is online it might also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. All accrediting organizations should be acknowledged by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. Besides guaranteeing a superior education, accreditation will also assist in obtaining financial aid and student loans, which are many times not offered for non-accredited programs. Accreditation may also be a pre-requisite for licensing and certification as required. And a number of Helena AL employers will only hire a graduate of an accredited program for entry-level jobs.
Are Internships Offered? Find out if the ultrasound technician programs you are evaluating have relationships with Helena AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent way to obtain hands on training in a clinical environment, they are also a way to satisfy the practical training requirement for the majority of programs. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist students and graduates develop professional connections in the Helena medical community and help with obtaining employment.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the sonographer schools you are interviewing 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 corroborates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the school they pick will need to be within travelling distance of their Helena AL home. Students 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. Something to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.
How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit far in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the colleges you are reviewing what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with some of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the sonogram tech program also.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the sonographer school you ultimately choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you decide to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Helena 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 need to enroll in. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Helena Ultrasound Technician Program
Selecting the ideal sonographer certificate or degree program is a vital first step to starting a fulfilling new career providing diagnostic services to patients. Sonographer schools require that you have a high school diploma or a GED. Apart from meeting academic requirements, you need to be in at least reasonably good physical condition, capable of standing for extended periods and able to routinely lift weights of 50 pounds or more, as is it often necessary to position patients and maneuver heavy machines. Other preferred talents include technical proficiency, the ability to remain collected when faced with an anxious or angry patient and the ability to communicate in a clear and compassionate manner. As we have covered in this post, there are multiple questions that you need to ask each school you are considering. This is the case whether you choose an online degree or drive to the college 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 alternatives until you are left with the ideal program for your education. And with the proper training, discipline and determination to succeed, you can accomplish your goal to work as a sonographer in Helena Alabama.