Health Care Ultrasound Technicians
Within the health care sector are multiple career opportunities in the field of radiology. Radiologists are primarily responsible for diagnostic testing involving work with doctors and nurses and direct patient contact. The special training and education necessary for work as an ultrasound technician take lots of time and effort but are worthwhile investments. Ultrasound technician careers are challenging but rewarding in long-term stability and good pay.
Conventional and online colleges and universities provide special programs in ultrasound technology, and accredited ultrasound technician schools offer classroom instruction and clinical training in this specific health care field. In ultrasound technician schools, online or conventional, program curricula are essentially the same needed to earn an ultrasound technician certification. The most important factor is that the school have appropriate accreditation.
Preparatory programs for radiology are on three levels: undergraduate certificate, associate’s degree, and bachelor’s degree. On all three levels, the focus is on ultrasound technology and diagnostics complemented by related subjects:
• Concepts in Patient Care. Though not as much as with nurses and their assistants, there is some direct patient contact. For ultrasound technicians, good communication skills are therefore essential, so their curricula cover ethical, psychological, and even legal topics.
• Human Anatomy and Physiology. The ultrasound student learns to identify all important body parts, especially organs. This knowledge is critical to ultrasound imaging.
• Ultrasound Physics. Typically, this advanced study in the associate or bachelor program helps students understand the physical science of acoustics. This course covers a very specific ultrasound field with an opportunity for training on ultrasound devices and equipment.
• Clinical Practicum. This part of the curriculum comes close to the end of the overall ultrasound technician program for actual experience working in a hospital, clinic, or doctor’s office with doctors and nurses assisting patients and running diagnostics. An advantage of the clinical practicum is the exposure to vascular, cardiac, obstetric and other fields of medicine.
After they finish their training, aspiring ultrasound technicians professionals must pass an examination from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography for certification. Typically, ultrasound technicians apply for recertification annually. Every alternate year they must submit documented continuing education credits with their recertification applications. Failure to submit such documented credits forfeits certification. The Washington, DC government requires continuing education for registered diagnostic medical sonographers. Continuing medical education credits may be are gained through instructional videos, patient care/interaction seminars, hospital volunteer programs, college courses, self-instructional online learning, attendance at professional lectures, and supplementary certification in specialty fields.
According to latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor, professional ultrasound technicians earn on average $65,000 annually and in some metropolitan areas up to $75,000. With several years of experience, technicians may pursue advancemebt within the medical/health care sector. Some advance to become registered nurses; others pursue medical careers in administration, education, and research.
In Washington, DC, aspirants are not likely to find employment in the competitive job market without some formal training in area hospitals through supervised unpaid externships or online schools via web-based resources for those who prefer home study. Supplementary certification in specialty areas opens opportunities as employers prefer to hire specialized technicians. As in most health care professions, employers rely on continuing education to keep employees current on industry trends, procedural innovations, medical advancements, and new diagnostic techniques. Continuing education can take place in hospitals, outpatient clinics, physician offices, laboratories, and public health facilities.
In 2009 New Mexico became the first state to require licensing. The Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography leads efforts for consistency in state licensing laws to make certifications recognized nationally. Employers expect prospective employees to have certification or to obtain it within a year.
Ultrasound technicians may need certifications in specialties as they progress in their careers . The Society requires ultrasound technology certification exams every five years and continuing education to keep up with changes and new developments. Ultrasound technology courses on specialized subjects are available for professionals looking to maintain their certification by gaining additional knowledge and skills.
Some small private medical offices may hire technicians without certification. This shortcut may appeal to those unwilling to pay the $200 certification examination fee or to wait for certification to start on their jobs, but they should find out whether such offices themselves are credentialed properly. Moreover, certification is necessary for credibility and advancement through the field.