We’ve built this website from the ground up, to provide you with the vital information needed to answer your questions about being an ultrasound technician. Whether you’re thinking about starting a career in the area or just looking to find out more information about ultrasound and sonography, this website will either be able to provide it, or provide a link to a resource that can.
What is an Ultrasound Technician?
Put simply, they are a medical professional who uses a piece of equipment called a transducer to map a body’s internals and display this as an image which can then be used to help diagnose a patient. The transducer works by sending out ultrasound waves into the body and these then bounce back from any internal surfaces to the machine as echoes. Similar to a bats navigational method of echolocation, the machine measures the time it takes for these echoes to come back, which allows it to calculate the distance travelled and therefor build up an image on the screen.
While a large part of the job is operating this machine, a sonographer is also responsible for the maintenance of the machine, along with interpreting the images that are produced. This decision making is then passed onto the doctors involved with the patient in order to aid diagnosis. During this process the sonographer will also be involved with providing quality patient care, alongside maintaining patient records and providing accurate reports on any ultrasound scans undertaken. Due to these duties, ultrasound technicians need to have excellent communication and administrative skills, organizational and teamwork abilities are also a major advantage.
Sonographer Demand and Job Security
In the current world climate, we now have to think of more than just whether or not we like a job. Job security can have a massive impact on a person’s daily life, from happiness to taking out a mortgage, knowing your career has a future can be very satisfying and comforting. This is one of the things that make training to be an ultrasound technician such a great career choice.
While many understand that entering the field of medicine is a great career choice, not everyone understands the extent of opportunities available outside the generally thought of roles such as doctors and nurses. Literally hundreds of hospitals up and down the United States are now equipped with ultrasound machines, as the huge benefits of such devices are noticed across the medical field the need for these machines has seen a large upturn over the last few years. With an increased need for the machines comes obviously, a need for qualified technicians to operate them.
There are currently around 53,700 diagnostic medical sonographers operating in the United States. In fact the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has stated that the number of jobs available in the field is expected to rise by an astonishing 44% in the next 10 years. When compared to the statement that anything over 20% in this period is deemed to be a very favorable job outlook, it makes diagnostic medical sonography one of the fastest growing career paths in the entire American job market.
There are a few reasons behind this large increase, the first is a simple one, the costs surrounding ultrasound machines have decreased substantially in recent years, while most modern devices all use standard hardware, it is even possible to run an ultrasound machine on a standard desktop computer as long as it is equipped with the specialized software required. When you combine this with an increased desire by physicians to have access to sonograms to aid their diagnoses, and major technological innovations in the area such as 3 and 4D imaging techniques, you can understand why the area is approached with such enthusiasm.
3D and 4D imaging is useful in more than what is usually deemed the standard areas for ultrasound sonography, from cardiovascular to musculoskeletal and other advanced systems, sonographers who have a sharp eye and great ability to spot abnormalities are highly valued by physicians.
This is why the BLS has stated that around 23,400 ultrasound technician jobs will be made available by 2020. This increased upturn however is for qualified technicians with relevant experience in their specialized field and knowledge of the latest advancements in the area. Due to this, training can be on going throughout their career in order to keep up to date with new technologies such as 3D and 4D imaging. While general diagnostic medical sonographers will have no issue finding work in the future, it is these specialities that can provide not only higher income, but a better platform in the future for personal advancement in their career.
Abdominal – Involved in the scanning of the soft tissues, organs and blood vessels found within the abdominal cavities, these include urinary tract, pancreas, kidneys, liver and spleen among others.
Breast – Used in the investigation and evaluation of abnormalities that have been discovered either with screening or diagnostic mammography. Most commonly thought of as a way to check for breast cancer, however is routinely used for other things such as monitoring blood flow.
Echocardiography – The assessment of the blood flow and anatomy of the heart, its valves and blood vessels. Echocardiography was one of the earliest uses for ultrasound.
Neurosonology - An assessment of the brain and spinal cord. Although they use the same equipment as other sonographers, the frequencies among other things are subtly different.
Obstetrics/Gynecology – One of the more commonly thought of uses for ultrasound, this includes scanning and keeping track of fetal growth and development alongside evaluating and diagnosing more general gynecological problems.
Ophthalmology – Investigation and evaluation of the eye and its surrounding muscles.
Vascular Technology – Assessment of the blood flow in the abdominal and peripheral blood vessels.
An average working week for an ultrasound technician is around 40 hours, this can include weekends. The job can also involve being on-call or being called into work at short notice due to emergencies. Although most sonographers work in hospitals, there is a large amount of growth in other sectors such as diagnostic laboratories or physician offices. Due to these work environments it is expected that all technicians are able to not only spend large periods of time on their feet, but also engage in lifting, pushing and bending down as required.
A Word from a Sonographer
Below is a video from a practicing ultrasound technician who talks more in depth about the daily activities and education requirements from experience.
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