How to Select an Accredited Ultrasound Tech Training Program Near Huntsville Alabama
Since you have decided to pursue an ultrasound technician degree near Huntsville AL, it's time to begin the procedure of picking a school. First, you must find the right program that will provide the appropriate instruction to become a skilled professional. And because some states do require that ultrasound techs be either certified or licensed, depending on your residence you may also need to be prepared to pass a licensing or certification examination. So it's extremely important that you investigate each school so that you can assess and compare your alternatives. But just where does one start? Most individuals will start by looking for schools that are within commuting distance of their homes and then by comparing tuition. Of course location and cost should be taken into account when arriving at a decision, but there are other important factors as well. For instance, if the ultrasound technician schools are accredited or if they provide internship programs. These and additional qualifiers will be discussed more in detail later in this article. But to start with, let's go over what an ultrasound tech does and the degrees and online training programs that are available.
Ultrasound Tech Occupation 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 function, which is to perform diagnostic ultrasound procedures on patients. Although many work as generalists there are specialties within the profession, for example in cardiology and pediatrics. The majority work in Huntsville AL clinics, hospitals, private practices or outpatient diagnostic imaging centers. Routine daily work tasks of an ultrasound technician may include:
- Maintaining records of patient medical histories and details of each procedure
- Counseling patients by explaining the procedures and answering questions
- Prepping the ultrasound machines for usage and then cleaning and re-calibrating them
- Transferring patients to treatment rooms and ensuring their comfort
- Using equipment while minimizing patient exposure to sound waves
- Reviewing the results and identifying necessity for additional testing
Ultrasound techs must routinely evaluate the safety and performance of their machines. 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 stay current with medical knowledge, they are mandated to complete continuing education courses on an ongoing basis.
Ultrasound Tech Degrees Offered
Sonogram technician enrollees have the choice to earn either an Associate Degree or a Bachelor's Degree. An Associate Degree will generally involve 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 4 years to complete. Another alternative for individuals who have previously obtained a college degree is a post graduate certificate program. If you have obtained a Bachelor's Degree in any major or an Associate Degree in a related medical field, you can instead choose a certificate program that will require only 12 to 18 months to finish. Something to bear in mind is that the majority of ultrasound technician programs do have a clinical training element as part of their curriculum. It can often be fulfilled by entering into an internship program which numerous schools set up with Huntsville AL clinics and hospitals. When you have graduated from one of the certificate or degree programs, you will then need to comply with the licensing or certification prerequisites in Alabama or whichever state you elect 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 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.
Online Sonogram Tech Classes
As earlier discussed, almost all ultrasound tech schools have a clinical component to their programs. So while you can obtain a certificate or degree online, a significant portion of the training will be either carried out in an on-campus laboratory or at a sponsored off campus medical care provider. Practical training can often be satisfied through an internship at a local Huntsville ALhospital, outpatient clinic or family practice. But the balance of the training and classes may be accessed online in your Huntsville home. This is especially beneficial for those individuals that keep working while obtaining their degrees. Plus online programs are frequently less costly than traditional options. Costs for commuting and study materials may be reduced also. But similarly as with every sonographer college you are considering, confirm that the online school you select is accredited. Among the most highly respected accrediting organizations is the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Accreditation is especially crucial for certification, licensing and job placement (more on accreditation later). So if you are disciplined enough to attend classes outside of the classroom in the convenience of your own home, then an online school may be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Sonography Programs
When you have decided on the type of degree or certificate that you would like to obtain, you can initiate the process of reviewing and comparing sonogram technician colleges. You will first probably want to choose whether you would rather attend classes online or travel to a school campus in the Huntsville AL area. Naturally location will be important if you choose the latter, and the price of tuition no doubt will be an initial qualification also. But there are other factors that you must also take into consideration, for example if the programs are accredited and if they offer internships. So in order to carry out your due diligence so that you can make your final selection, below are some questions that you may want to ask each ultrasound tech school before deciding.
Are the Sonogram Technician Programs Accredited? Most ultrasound tech colleges have obtained some form of accreditation, whether national or regional. However, it's still important to verify that the program and school are accredited. Among the most highly respected 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 a detailed examination of their teachers and course materials. If the program is online it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. All accrediting organizations should be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. Along with guaranteeing a premium education, accreditation will also assist in acquiring financial aid and student loans, which are often not accessible for non-accredited programs. Accreditation can also be a pre-requisite for certification and licensing as required. And many Huntsville AL employers will only hire a graduate of an accredited college for entry-level positions.
Are Internship Programs Offered? Inquire if the sonogram tech schools you are evaluating have associations with Huntsville AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great means to get hands on training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a means to fulfill the practical training requirement for most programs. As an ancillary benefit, they can help students and graduates establish professional connections in the Huntsville medical community and assist with job placement.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the sonographer programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama healthcare employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Program Located? For many students, the school they decide on will have to be within travelling distance of their Huntsville AL home. Those who have opted to attend online classes naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. One thing 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 may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.
How Big 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 smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the schools you are reviewing what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with a few of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the ultrasound tech program as well.
Does the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the sonographer program you finally select can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Huntsville AL area, verify that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Huntsville Ultrasound Tech Program
Picking the ideal ultrasound tech certificate or degree program is a crucial first step to entering a rewarding new career providing diagnostic services to patients. Sonographer schools require that you have earned a high school diploma or a GED. Apart from meeting academic requirements, you must be in at least reasonably good physical condition, able to stand for lengthy time frames with the ability to regularly lift weights of 50 pounds or more, as is it often necessary to adjust patients and maneuver heavy machines. Additional preferred skills include technical aptitude, the ability to stay calm when faced with an angry or anxious patient and the ability to converse in a clear and compassionate manner. As we have discussed in this article, there are multiple questions that you need to ask each school you are reviewing. This holds true whether you select an online program or travel to the school campus to attend classes. And by asking the proper questions so that you can compare each college, you will be able to narrow down your alternatives until you are left with the ideal school for your education. And with the proper training, discipline and determination to succeed, you can achieve your objective to work as a sonographer in Huntsville Alabama.