Ultrasound is a non-invasive imaging technique that employs sound wave technology to examine organs and other interior body parts for diagnostic, monitoring and therapeutic purposes. An ultrasound technician, also referred to as a diagnostic medical sonographer, is a vital member of a healthcare team, whether it be at a hospital, outpatient facility, doctor’s office or medical laboratory.
Ultrasound training is available in many forms. It often starts with an ultrasound degree or certificate program that allows students to learn the theory and practice of sonography in the classroom, laboratory and during clinical rotations. There is also ultrasound training in the form of professional development so that practicing sonographers can upgrade their skills and further specialize.
Typical Ultrasound Training
Ultrasound technicians need to learn more than simply how to turn on a machine and operate an imaging probe. Ultrasound training delves into all important features of the profession. This includes coursework in anatomy and physiology so that the sonographer can accurately identify what needs to be imaged. Medical terminology is another important aspect of ultrasound tech training as sonographers often need to prepare reports or share findings with physicians and other medical staff.
Knowledge of pathology and abnormalities is also a key component of an ultrasound training program because often sonographers assist with making medical diagnoses. Ultrasound technicians also learn about patient care, communications, physics (particularly as it pertains to sound wave technology), health law and other relevant disciplines. Ultrasound training consists of lectures but also hands-on experiences (through lab work and placements) so that the prospective sonographer knows exactly what is required in a real-world career scenario.
For more specialized ultrasound training, individuals can further familiarize themselves in a number of areas, from echocardiography and Doppler sonography to neurological ultrasounds and interventional sonography.
Can I do any Training Online?
Normally as part of a degree or certificate program, a lot of the ultrasound technician training must be done in person, particularly when it comes to using ultrasound equipment. However, if a student has already done all of the required clinical hours, he or she may have the option to complete ultrasound training courses online. For example, if you already have completed an Associates degree in ultrasound and wish to take Bachelor degree completion courses, some schools will offers these online. You can request information from various colleges and universities to find out which offer ultrasound training programs partially or fully online.
Additionally, if you wish to take professional development ultrasound tech training (i.e. in order to maintain ARDMS or other credentials or to further specialize and upgrade your career), several organizations offer ultrasound courses online or by correspondence, such as the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS), the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT) and the Institute for Advanced Medical Education (IAME).
Are Internships Available?
As part of a sonography degree or certificate program, there is almost always at least one clinical internship included in the ultrasound training; in many cases, depending on the length of the educational program, you will have the opportunity to complete two or more internships to gain experience in various work settings and specialties of ultrasound. Clinical internships are an essential component of ultrasound tech training as individuals finally get to put all they’ve learned into practice.
My Ultrasound Technician Training is Complete—Now What?
Once you complete an Associates or certificate program, you will have gained the experience and skills needed for entry-level employment in the field of sonography. It’s a good idea to apply for ARDMS and other certifications as soon as possible as this will make you a more competitive job candidate and in some cases employers require it. Look for employment at hospitals – according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 61% of diagnostic medical sonographers work in hospitals – and also physicians’ offices, diagnostic or medical laboratories, outpatient centers and other healthcare facilities.
If you’ve graduated with higher levels of education and/or already have experience working as an ultrasound technician, it’s time to update your CV and add all your recent ultrasound training. Depending on the training you received, you may be eligible to apply for managerial, department head or consulting positions or for more specialized jobs, such as echocardiographer or neurosonographer positions.