By Rick Fromme
|Rubber Soul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
As most of you have probably surmised from reading my earlier posts, I’m a Beatles fan. Hence, combining the subtitle of one of the Fab Four’s earlier songs from the album,“Rubber Soul,” along with the series title adapted from “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band” just made sense, word play-wise.
The Beatles changed our lives in so many ways; they were an unequivocally talented band that also became a social phenomenon. They were responsible for many innovations that we take for granted today, such as the performing in-concert to huge stadium crowds; the concept albums; music videos; starting their own record label; inventing numerous, innovative recording studio techniques and more.
Arguably, the Beatles changed the world as we know it with sound. Likewise, Sonography changed the diagnostic medical profession as it uses ultrasound waves to image our internal anatomy and physiological processes in real time.
Skilled Sonographers — also known as Ultrasound Technicians, or Diagnostic Medical Sonographers — have become an invaluable asset to modern health care diagnostics and treatment. They’re trained to operate specialized equipment, a type of transducer, which produces a special image to help diagnose patients' ailments inside the human body. The ultrasonic instrument emits high-frequency sound waves, inaudible to humans, to digitally record the echoes as its sound waves bounce back to determine the size, shape, and consistency of soft tissues and organs. These sound waves and their echoes create ultrasonic images, called a sonogram, of our internal bodies. Sonography can now produce 2D, 3D, and even 4D images of our internal organs and life forms that sometimes inhabit some of us, babies that is.
|4D Ultrasound showing 3-month-old fetus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Sonographers may specialize in OB/GYN, abdominal, neurosonography, breast, vascular, or cardiac sonography. An integral part of the health care team, sonographers work directly with patients, physicians and other medical personnel. While a licensed, skilled sonographer actually images the patient, most of his or her ultrasound readings are interpreted by radiologists, who then contact the ordering physician (i.e., OB/GYN, cardiac or thoracic surgeons) to detail and discuss the results.
Job Outlook & Responsibilities
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that job growth in this field will be much faster than the average for all occupations through 2020. Sonography is listed among those occupations expected to grow faster than most others, especially those that require an associate degree.
Of course, one of ultrasound’s most common uses is to provide a “womb with a view” perspective of developing fetuses inside a woman’s uterus. Ultrasound has many uses during pregnancy. Pregnancies can be dated and hence, due dates can be reasonably estimated. It can determine if a mother is carrying multiple fetuses such as twins, triplets, or quadruplets. It can also determine if the pregnancy is ectopic. Sonography can be used as a screening tool to detect possible birth defects, if there are issues with the placenta, if the baby is in a breech position, and more. After several months of pregnancy, ultrasound can tell expecting parents whether to buy blue or pink paint for the nursery. And, just prior to delivery, ultrasound can estimate the baby’s size.
|Ultrasound Machine (Photo credit: The Facey Family)|
Furthermore, in addition to its imaging capabilities, sonography is used for a wide variety of non-invasive applications, some of them potentially life-saving. Sonographers are an integral part of the health care team, as ultrasound helps doctors diagnose a wide variety of conditions affecting certain the organs and soft tissues, including the heart and blood vessels, liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, bladder, uterus, ovaries, prostate, testicles, eyes, and thyroid gland. Sonographers help “stage” cancers and can help locate arterial blockages such as through venous Doppler exams. Ultrasound can also guide doctors through precise medical procedures such as needle biopsies, which require the doctor to remove tissue from a very precise area inside the body for testing in a lab. Ultrasound technology can identify the cause of soft tissue injuries, and can sometimes help treat them. There are diagnostic limitations, as the sound waves don’t transmit well through dense bone or the bowel, because it holds gas, and lungs because they hold oxygen.
A typical day includes seeing eight to twelve patients, performing a variety of ultrasound procedures and obtaining acoustic images of organs, including abdominal, gallbladders, aortas, carotid arteries, obstetric imaging, venous Dopplers (of arms and legs) and more. Because ultrasound images are captured in real-time, they can show the structure and movement of the body's internal organs, as well as blood flowing through arteries and veins.
|Doppler echocardiography (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Many sonographers will first take a “bare belly” reading of the patient. Using the digital equipment and specially created acoustic gel, the sonographer will image the abdominal cavity to determine if there is any pathology, cysts, tumors, masses, or anything else that may be out of the ordinary.
Sonographers’ hours vary depending upon if they’re working in an office or hospital setting. Some, particularly if working at a hospital, may have weekend and night shift work. Or, if on call, may get called during any time in the middle of the night… and then may have to work their normal shift. Those working in private imaging clinics — usually alongside other imaging technology such as X-rays, MRI, CAT scan — enjoy more regular hours.
Most sonographers find the career rewarding as they’re helping patients in numerous ways and also utilizing their specialized skill sets within a skilled health care team.
Most employers, especially hospitals and medical centers, prefer to hire job candidates who have received training from accredited programs. Visit the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs site to learn more and see which programs are accredited.
Furthermore, while Sonography/Ultrasound Technician isn't currently a licensed occupation, most employers prefer to hire candidates who’ve been certified by a credential-granting organization such as The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). To earn this credential, one must take an exam and meet prerequisites that include a combination of education and work experience.
In this article, I discussed the in-demand field of Sonography, also known as Ultrasound Technology. I briefly touched upon how the technology works, the areas in medicine where Sonography is most effective, where sonographers work, future job outlook, and its educational requirements. If you liked this article, please comment and share it.
Rick Fromme combines entrepreneurial enthusiasm with an insider's knowledge of the medical industry to co-found MedMasters.com. Both his drive and perspective helps provide health care professionals with a superior mechanism with which to communicate, network and market their strengths. Prior to founding MedMasters.com, Rick operated a highly successful medical device distributorship. Other milestones in his 12-year career in the medical industry include a key position at a medical device start-up company that was later sold to the Ethicon Endo division of Johnson & Johnson. You may also reach Rick by connecting with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube.