How to Enroll in the Right Ultrasound Tech Course Near Prattville Alabama
Since you have made a decision to pursue an ultrasound technician degree near Prattville AL, the next step is to start the process of choosing a college. First, you must find the right program that will provide the proper instruction to become a skilled professional. And since a number of 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 certification or licensing exam. So it's very important that you research each school so that you can assess and compare your alternatives. But just where does one start? Most prospective students will start by looking for schools that are within driving distance of their homes and then by comparing tuition. Certainly location and cost should be taken into account when arriving at a decision, but there are other critical factors as well. Such as, if the ultrasound technician schools are accredited or if they offer internships. These and additional qualifiers will be addressed more in detail later in this post. But first, let's review what a sonogram tech does and the degrees and online education options that are offered.
Ultrasound Technician Job Summary
There are multiple acceptable titles for ultrasound techs (technicians). They are also referred to as sonogram techs, diagnostic medical sonographers (or just sonographers) and ultrasound technologists. Regardless of name, they all have the same primary job function, which is to perform diagnostic ultrasound testing on patients. Although many work as generalists there are specializations within the profession, for example in pediatrics and cardiology. The majority work in Prattville AL hospitals, clinics, outpatient diagnostic imaging centers and even private practices. Routine daily work duties of an ultrasound tech may include:
- Keeping records of patient medical histories and specifics of each procedure
- Counseling patients by explaining the procedures and answering questions
- Prepping the ultrasound machines for use and then sterilizing and recalibrating them
- Escorting patients to treatment rooms and making them comfortable
- Using equipment while minimizing patient exposure to sound waves
- Evaluating results and identifying necessity for additional testing
Sonographers must regularly evaluate the safety and performance of their machines. They also must adhere to a high professional standard and code of conduct as health practitioners. So as to sustain that degree of professionalism and stay up to date with medical knowledge, they are mandated to enroll in continuing education training on a regular basis.
Ultrasound Technician Degree Programs Offered
Ultrasound technician enrollees have the option to earn either an Associate or a Bachelor's Degree. An Associate Degree will typically take about 18 months to 2 years to complete based upon the course load and program. 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 earned a Bachelor's Degree in any major or an Associate Degree in a relevant medical field, you can enroll in a certificate program that will require just 12 to 18 months to complete. One thing to consider is that most ultrasound technician programs do have a practical training element as part of their curriculum. It often may be satisfied by taking part in an internship program which many colleges organize with Prattville AL hospitals and clinics. Once you have graduated from any of the degree or certificate programs, you will then have to comply with the certification or licensing requirements 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 Prattville 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 Programs
As aforementioned, nearly all sonogram technician schools have a clinical component to their programs. So although you can receive a certificate or degree online, a substantial part of the training will be either conducted in an on-campus lab or at an approved off-campus facility. Practical training can often be satisfied by means of an internship at a local Prattville ALoutpatient clinic, hospital or private practice. But the remainder of the training and classes can be accessed online in your Prattville home. This is particularly beneficial for those individuals that keep working while getting their degrees. Plus online colleges are many times less costly than on campus alternatives. Costs for commuting and study materials may be decreased as well. But just as with every sonographer college you are considering, verify 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 especially important for certification, licensing and job placement (more on accreditation later). So if you are dedicated enough to learn outside of the classroom in the comfort of your own home, then online classes may be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Ultrasound Tech Schools
Once you have decided on which certificate or degree that you would like to earn, you can initiate the process of reviewing and comparing ultrasound tech schools. You will first probably want to decide whether you would rather attend classes online or travel to a school campus in the Prattville AL area. Of course location will be important if you select the latter, and the price of tuition undoubtedly will be an important qualification also. But there are other factors that you should also take into consideration, for example if the schools are accredited and if they provide internships. So in order to perform your due diligence so that you can arrive at your final selection, below are several questions that you need ask each sonographer college before deciding.
Are the Sonogram Tech Colleges Accredited? The majority of ultrasound tech colleges have earned some type of accreditation, whether national or regional. Nevertheless, it's still important to make sure that the program and school are accredited. One of the most highly regarded 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 undergone an extensive review of their instructors and educational materials. If the program is online it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on 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 ensuring a superior education, accreditation will also help in getting financial aid and student loans, which are many times not available for non-accredited colleges. Accreditation might also be a pre-requisite for licensing and certification as required. And a number of Prattville AL employers will only hire graduates of an accredited program for entry level jobs.
Are Internships Offered? Ask if the ultrasound technician schools you are assessing have partnerships with Prattville AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific way to get hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are also a means to satisfy the practical training requirement for most programs. As a supplemental benefit, they may help students and graduates establish professional connections in the Prattville medical community and assist with job placement.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the sonographer schools you are interviewing 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 substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the school they select will have to be within driving distance of their Prattville AL home. Individuals who have opted to attend classes online naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. Something to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.
What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit way in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably want a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the colleges you are researching what the typical 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 speak with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the sonogram technician program as well.
Does the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the sonographer program you ultimately pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you decide to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Prattville AL area, make sure that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would need to carry. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Prattville Ultrasound Tech Program
Selecting the right ultrasound tech certificate or degree program is a vital first step to starting a gratifying new career providing diagnostic services to patients. Ultrasound technician schools require that you have earned a high school diploma or equivalent. Along with meeting academic standards, you must be in at least fairly good physical health, capable of standing for prolonged durations with the ability to regularly lift weights of 50 pounds or more, as is it often necessary to position patients and move heavy equipment. Other preferred talents include technical aptitude, the ability to stay calm 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 several questions that you need to ask each program you are considering. This holds true whether you enroll in an online program or commute to the college campus to attend classes. And by asking the appropriate questions so that you can assess each school, you can narrow down your alternatives until you are left with the best school for your education. And with the right training, discipline and determination to succeed, you can realize your objective to practice as a sonographer in Prattville Alabama.