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Sonographer Work 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 basic job description, which is to perform diagnostic ultrasound procedures on patients. Even though a number of techs work as generalists there are specialties within the field, for instance in cardiology and pediatrics. The majority practice in Alaska clinics, hospitals, outpatient diagnostic imaging centers and even private practices. Routine daily job functions of a sonogram technician may consist of:
- Preserving records of patient medical histories and details of each procedure
- Counseling patients by explaining the procedures and answering questions
- Preparing the ultrasound machines for use 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
- Assessing results and determining necessity for additional testing
Sonographers must regularly gauge the performance and safety of their equipment. They also must adhere to a high professional standard and code of conduct as health practitioners. In order to sustain that level of professionalism and remain up to date with medical knowledge, they are mandated to enroll in continuing education training on an ongoing basis.
Sonogram Technician Degree Programs Available
Sonogram technician students have the option to acquire either an Associate Degree or a Bachelor's Degree. An Associate Degree will usually require about 18 months to 2 years to complete dependent on the program and class load. A Bachelor's Degree will require more time at up to four years to finish. Another option for individuals 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 require just 12 to 18 months to complete. One thing to bear in mind is that most sonographer colleges do have a clinical training component as a portion of their course of study. It often may be fulfilled by participating in an internship program which numerous colleges sponsor with Alaska clinics and hospitals. Once you have graduated from one of the certificate or degree programs, you will then need to satisfy the licensing or certification prerequisites in Alaska 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 Alaska:
- 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.
Sonogram Tech Online Schools
As aforementioned, virtually all sonogram tech colleges have a clinical requirement to their programs. So while you can obtain a degree or certificate online, a significant portion of the training will be either carried out in an on-campus laboratory or at a sponsored off campus facility. Clinical training can usually be fulfilled by means of an internship at a local Alaska outpatient clinic, hospital or family practice. But the rest of the training and classes can be attended online in your home. This is particularly convenient for those individuals that keep working while getting their degrees. Plus online colleges are many times less costly than traditional alternatives. Expenditures for commuting and study materials can be reduced also. But similarly as with any sonography program you are looking at, confirm that the online school you ultimately pick 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 certification, licensing and job placement (more on accreditation later). So if you are disciplined enough to learn away from the classroom in the comfort of your own home, then an online school may be the right option for you.