What is an ultrasound?
An ultrasound scan is a medical test that utilizes high-frequency sound waves to capture live images from the inside of your body. This is also referred to as sonography. Most people when visualizing an ultrasound will immediately think of movies or television shows that depict doctors using an ultrasound machine to detect the movement and growth of an unborn child. However, this is merely a single use of this wonderful technology and there are numerous other ways in which an ultrasound can be employed. These include:
- Breast ultrasound.
- Obstetrics and gynecology ultrasound.
- Vascular ultrasound.
- Cardiac ultrasound (Echocardiography).
- Abdominal ultrasound.
- Ophthalmologic ultrasonography.
With such a vast landscape of potential available, it is clearly evident why so many individuals would find this field a promising career path.
Who is an ultrasound technician?
An ultrasound technician can also be referred to as a diagnostic medical sonographer or a simpler term, a sonographer. This individual operates an ultrasound machine that uses high frequency sound waves to record images from the inside of a patient’s body. Ultrasound technicians most often have a close relationship with patients and confer regularly with physicians and other specialists. It is highly likely that an ultrasound technician will choose to specialize in a specific field of sonography which includes vascular and abdominal among others.
Skills and Educational requirements
An ultrasound technician requires an immense amount of dedication, attention to detail, focus and knowledge to perform their duties impeccably. It is after all their responsibility to provide patients with results that are accurate, information that is clearly understandable and a high quality of service. Failure to perform adequately reflects poorly on the ultrasound technician and their employer. It is, therefore, a generally accepted requirement for an individual seeking a career as an ultrasound technician to be a registered RDMS (Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer). This registration can be achieved by an individual if they manage to pass exams set by the ARDMS (American Registry of Diagnostic of Sonographery) or the ARRT (American Registry of Radiological Technologists). It is imperative to note that these exams are only offered to individuals who have graduated from an accredited program. All students who seek to study sonography should ensure their school of choice is an accredited institution. This information is quite easily accessible, by simply contacting CAAHEP (Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs) or the Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography. Countries across the globe may differ in their educational expectations for an individual seeking a position as an ultrasound technician, but invariably education is an imperative across the board.
Reasons to become an ultrasound technician
There are numerous positive aspects to choosing a career as a sonographer. These are merely a few of them:
- This career path does not actually require a long period of education and training to be accepted into an entry level position. Basic training usually demands approximately 15 months from the applicant, although there are various certificate courses available that only insist upon 12 months.
- An ultrasound technician commands a higher salary than most other professions. An entry level candidate can already expect an impressive paycheck and as more education and experience is acquired, their earnings rise accordingly. Additional expenses such as housing, transport and food are quite often provided at no extra charge.
- The sonography field is experiencing an amazing amount of growth at the current time. It is in part due to the fact that a large majority of people prefers to be treated with sonography rather than experience invasive surgery or a high dose of medications. Another growth factor is the clear increase of the elderly population.
The sonography field is set to remain a booming industry for many years to come which inevitably provides a sense of security and stability to the lives of those who choose to work as ultrasound technicians.
Why you might choose not to pursue a sonography career?
While becoming an ultrasound technician can be an amazing and incredibly fulfilling profession, it also has its disadvantages.
- Major employers of sonographers are open for extended hours at a time or even continually in certain situations. Therefore, working on evenings and weekends is unfortunately extremely common and to be expected.
- An ultrasound technician should always be in great psychical shape and and the epitome of excellent health. This is a requirement as technicians most often find themselves standing for long periods of time and also need to be able to assist with the positioning of disabled patients where necessary.
- The physical duties performed by a sonographer may lead to the development of strains or various other injuries.
- Ultrasound technicians, as members of the highly respected medical field, may find themselves engaged in direct contact with patients afflicted with severe infections. They will be required to take special precautions in order to avoid contact with blood or other bodily fluids that may transmit diseases.
A career in sonography may lead to a life fraught with stress and sleep deprivation, but at the end of the day, if you sincerely believe in the rightness of your decision then it invariably rests on your shoulders to weigh your own personal pros and cons list. The choice you make has to be one that you honestly stand by with absolute conviction.
Current salary expectations
Ultrasound technician salaries rank extremely highly amongst all medical technician fields. The average salary for sonographers according to the Bureau of Labour Statistics is $68,530. The highest paid ultrasound technicians earn approximately $97,930 and at the lower end of the salary scale, sonographers receive $48,720. It is by no means a stretch of the imagination to arrive at the conclusion that a sonography career provides an individual with a promising future, high earnings potential and an excellent employment record.
Facts about the sonography field that may surprise you
- Jobs are usually full time.
- Most sonographers are employed by hospitals. Those that aren't often work for doctors or diagnostic imaging centers.
- In 2014, it was calculated that 61000 people were working as ultrasound technicians.
- Ultrasound was actually developed for industry not medicine, where it is currently being used widely.
- An Austrian neurologist was the first person to use an ultrasound machine for medical purposes.
- Humans are unable to hear ultrasound waves. However, certain animals have the ability to hear sounds in this range, including dogs and cats.
- A sonographer is able to utilize ultrasound technology to determine the gender of a fetus at approximately 18 weeks.
- Humans are not the only species to benefit from the use of ultrasound technology. Veterinarians have in fact been working with ultrasound for diagnostic purposes for quite some time already.
- Ultrasound whilst an excellent tool for viewing the insides of a patient’s body has one serious drawback, it cannot penetrate through bone. This makes it difficult to use ultrasound if a doctor desires to examine the brain of a patient. Different methods must therefore be utilized.
- Doctors employ ultrasound technology quite often as there are very rarely any side effects and it is relatively inexpensive compared to other methods of examination that could be used.
- Patients prefer ultrasound technology as it is non invasive and painless.
- Creating an ultrasound actually involves three processes. These are, producing the sound wave, receiving echoes from it and then interpreting the data gathered.
- 3D ultrasound can create live, moving images of a patients beating heart.
- Ultrasound was first used in the gynecological and obstetrics field in 1957 by a Scottish man.
- Ultrasound was first employed with regards to the heart in 1953 and was used to measure heart activity.
- Ultrasonic waves are currently used outside the medical arena as well. These include being used to:
- Test and weld products.
- Clean jewelry, lenses and watches.
- Clean surgical equipment.
There are, however, various other ways ultrasound technology is being utilized
Sonography is considered one of the fastest growing industries and is also highly recommended in the employment world for its security and stability. Pursuing a sonography career can be emotionally and mentally fulfilling for an individual as well as financially profitable. However, this profession should not be mistaken as an easy ride or simply a means to an end. People can often lose sight of the most important facts when faced with the bigger picture. Inevitably, an ultrasound technician is first and foremost a medical practitioner whose duty it is to provide quality care to all patients. This quality of care must be of the highest standard and utterly untouched by desires for wealth, admiration and glory. The truly remarkable sonographer will aspire to be both a highly competent doctor and a immensely involved caregiver.