An ultrasound technician, also commonly called a sonographer, performs specialized diagnostics on patients to identify various issues related to organs and soft tissue. The technician is expected to be able to perform a variety of exams and procedures, and they will commonly work alone or with the assistance of a nurse. The sonography field is currently an in-demand profession, and sonography jobs can be found throughout the United States.
Where do Sonographers Work?
A sonographer can find a job in many medical facilities. Due to advances in technology, sonography equipment can be found in smaller clinics as well. In a major hospital, the sonographer will be part of the radiology department.
Mobile sonography units are a new advancement in the field. A mobile sonographer can transport the necessary equipment to patient homes or to smaller facilities that cannot afford permanent equipment. A bedside sonographer is also commonly employed in hospitals. These sonographers will operate mobile equipment in the hospital to visit patients who cannot otherwise be moved to the traditional examination room.
Traveling sonography is also a rising aspect of the profession. Due to the need for constant sonographer presence at most hospitals, the hospital will hire a temporary sonographer to replace anyone on vacation or absence. Many agencies specialize in hiring travelling sonographers that work temporary positions at many different hospitals for several weeks or months at a time.
The Duties of the Sonographer
The primary duty of a sonographer is patient care. Most patients are referred to the sonographer by a physician for a particular procedure. After that, the sonographer takes over. First, they will analyze the patient’s condition and will contact the physician if any amendments or additions need to be made to the original procedure.
Once the full procedure is planned out, the sonographer will explain the procedure and its reasoning to the patient just prior. They will also prep the patient accordingly. Depending on the procedure, patients may need to meet certain conditions, such as having a full bladder, or having an injection of a contrast medium.
The sonographer will then conduct the procedure. The sonographer will need to be able to analyze results in real time and identify the correct times and locations to record images for the physician’s review. Most sonographers also describe what they are doing and seeing in real time to the patient. Due to the nature of sonography, it is entirely possible for the patient to see the same images as the sonographer at the same time. This allows a level of communication between patient and sonographer that is not possible in most other diagnostic procedures.
Once the exam is completed, the sonographer will prepare the results for submission to the patient’s physician. This preparation will include a careful analysis of results to identify both expected and especially unexpected outcomes. The sonographer may interpret the results for the physician and recommend any additional procedures. Ultimately, the physician will use this information to determine the patient’s’ next treatment steps. The sonographer does not order or determine additional treatments himself. He can only make recommendations to the physician.
Integrity and Professionalism
While most ultrasound procedures are non-invasive, do not penetrate the skin and are not painful, a sonographer is still held to strict medical ethics expectations and codes of conduct. This is especially important due to the fact that sonographers often work with patients in isolation. They are expected to assume responsibility for each patient’s well-being during a procedure.
Training and Additional Duties
While sonographers may conduct exams in relative isolation, they are still often a member of a team that involves other sonographers and other professionals in the radiology department. Often, a sonographer will catch a hint of a condition that can only be properly diagnosed with a different method. Sonographers will interact with other radiology professionals on a daily basis.
A good deal of sonographer training is done on the job. Sonographers are expected to be able to train and initiate new hires in addition to their regular duties. Often a veteran sonographer will be paired with a newer sonographer and must be able to demonstrate a variety of exams and procedures.
There is also an amount of clerical work associated with being a sonographer. They will be handling and updating patient medical records and reports. An attention to detail when completing these tasks is of utmost importance to the wellbeing of the patient.
Many sonographers also take call in addition to regular hours. An on-call sonographer does not have to remain on the hospital premises, but they do have to remain within a reasonable commuting distance. When on call, a sonographer may need to report for an exam at any time of the day or night, and they must arrive in a timely fashion. The life of a patient may depend on the punctuality of an on-call sonographer.
Becoming a sonographer can be a demanding but rewarding career in the medical field. The work is complex, challenging and vital to the successful operation of many medical treatments.