How to Select the Right Ultrasound Tech Training Program Near Huntsville Alabama
Now that you have made a decision to pursue an ultrasound technician degree near Huntsville AL, it's time to start the process of selecting a college. To begin with, you must find the right program that will provide the appropriate instruction to become a qualified professional. And because some states do require that sonographers be either licensed or certified, depending on where you will practice you may also need preparation to pass a licensing or certification examination. So it's very important that you research each college so that you can assess and compare your options. But exactly where does one begin? Many prospective students will begin by searching for schools that are within driving distance of their homes and then by comparing tuition. Naturally location and cost must be taken into account when arriving at a decision, but there are additional important factors as well. For example, if the ultrasound technician schools are accredited or if they offer internship programs. These and additional qualifiers will be addressed more in depth later in this article. But to start with, let's go over what an ultrasound tech does and the credentials and online training programs that are offered.
Ultrasound Tech Job Description
There are more than one professional 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 description, which is to carry out diagnostic ultrasound procedures on patients. While many practice as generalists there are specializations within the profession, for example in cardiology and pediatrics. Most practice in Huntsville AL clinics, hospitals, outpatient diagnostic imaging centers and even private practices. Common daily job duties of an ultrasound technician 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 testing and then cleaning and re-calibrating them
- Escorting patients to treatment rooms and ensuring their comfort
- Utilizing equipment while limiting patient exposure to sound waves
- Assessing results and identifying need for supplemental testing
Ultrasound techs must frequently assess the safety and performance of their equipment. They also must adhere to a high ethical standard and code of conduct as medical practitioners. So as to maintain that level of professionalism and remain current with medical knowledge, they are mandated to enroll in continuing education training on a regular basis.
Ultrasound Tech Degree Programs Available
Ultrasound tech enrollees have the option to earn either an Associate Degree or a Bachelor's Degree. An Associate Degree will typically take around 18 months to 2 years to complete dependent on the course load and program. A Bachelor's Degree will require more time at up to 4 years to complete. Another option for individuals 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 health field, you can enroll in a certificate program that will require just 12 to 18 months to finish. Something to bear in mind is that almost all ultrasound technician colleges do have a clinical training element as a portion of their course of study. It can often be satisfied by participating in an internship program which numerous schools sponsor with Huntsville AL hospitals and clinics. Once you have graduated from any of the certificate or degree programs, you will then need to comply with 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 Huntsville 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 Technician Online Programs
As previously mentioned, virtually all ultrasound technician schools have a practical component to their programs. So while you can earn a degree or certificate online, a substantial portion of the training will be either conducted in an on-campus lab or at an approved off campus facility. Practical training can usually be satisfied through an internship at a local Huntsville ALoutpatient clinic, hospital or private practice. But the balance of the classes and training may be attended online in your Huntsville home. This is especially beneficial for those individuals that keep working while earning their degrees. Plus online programs are many times less expensive than traditional options. Expenses for study materials and commuting may be decreased also. But similarly as with any sonographer school you are reviewing, verify that the online program you choose is accredited. Among the most highly respected accrediting agencies is the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Accreditation is especially significant 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 school could be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Sonography Colleges
After you have determined the type of certificate or degree that you would like to earn, you can begin the process of evaluating and comparing ultrasound tech colleges. You may first want to decide whether you will access classes online or commute to a college campus in the Huntsville AL area. Obviously location will be significant if you choose the latter, and the cost of tuition no doubt will be an initial qualifier also. But there are additional things that you must also take into consideration, for example if the programs are accredited and if they sponsor internship programs. Therefore in order to complete your due diligence so that you can make your final selection, below are a few questions that you need ask each sonography program prior to making a decision.
Are the Sonogram Technician Schools Accredited? Most sonogram technician schools have earned some form of accreditation, whether regional or national. However, it's still crucial 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 receiving accreditation from the JRC-DMS have undergone an extensive examination of their instructors and course materials. If the college is online it might also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. All accrediting agencies should be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. Along with ensuring a premium education, accreditation will also help in obtaining financial assistance and student loans, which are often not offered for non-accredited programs. Accreditation can also be a pre-requisite for licensing and certification as required. And numerous Huntsville AL employers will only hire graduates of an accredited school for entry-level openings.
Are Internships Provided? Find out if the sonogram tech programs you are interested in have associations with Huntsville AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to receive hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are also a way to satisfy the practical training requirement for most programs. As a supplemental benefit, they can assist students and graduates form professional connections in the Huntsville health care community and assist with obtaining employment.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the ultrasound tech schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama healthcare employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the school they pick will have to be within driving distance of their Huntsville AL home. Individuals who have chosen to attend online classes obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. 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 might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.
How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the colleges you are researching what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with a few of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the sonogram tech program as well.
Does the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the ultrasound tech college you finally select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you choose to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Huntsville AL area, confirm that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would need to enroll in. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Huntsville Ultrasound Tech Program
Enrolling in the right ultrasound technician certificate or degree program is a vital first step to initiating a gratifying new profession furnishing diagnostic services to patients. Ultrasound tech schools require that you have a high school diploma or equivalent. Along with satisfying academic standards, you should be in at least reasonably good physical condition, capable of standing for lengthy periods with the ability to regularly lift weights of 50 pounds or more, as is it typically necessary to position patients and move heavy machines. Additional helpful skills include technical proficiency, the ability to stay collected when confronted by an anxious or angry patient and the ability to converse clearly and compassionately. As we have covered in this article, there are a number of questions that you need to ask each college you are looking at. This holds true whether you choose an online program or drive to the school campus to attend classes. And by asking the right questions so that you can assess each college, you can narrow down your alternatives until you are left with the best school for your education. And with the right training, dedication and determination to succeed, you can realize your goal to work as an ultrasound technologist in Huntsville Alabama.