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Time Management Tips for Sonographers

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In addition to the faculty highlighted in our “Advice from Ultrasound Professors” article, we also heard back from Ken Galbraith, the Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program Director at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York.

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The Chair of the Ultrasound Program offered this advice for aspiring medical imagers:

“Take care of your patients’ needs. You will be pressured to work faster. Make sure the patient gets what they need. Ultimately, this is who you work for. If you take shortcuts or do sloppy work, you may as well be going into their purse and stealing from them. If you expect to be treated and paid like a professional, you have to deliver your services like one.”

In order to follow Instructor Galbraith’s words of wisdom, sonographers and ultrasound technicians, as well as other medical imagers, need to have excellent time management skills.

As Robert De Jong points out in his book Essentials of Sonography and Patient Care:

“Entry-level sonographers are expected to complete more patient examinations than they did as students. In whatever work situation they find themselves in, sonographers must learn to organize the work so that each patient is provided with a complete, quality examination that assists the diagnosis. Time management skills are required to meet this challenge.”

In any given work setting, sonographers are striving to scan an increasing number of patients and doing so on time, while also completing paperwork, conferring with physicians and other colleagues, making time for emergency patients or for patients that require a particular specialty or adaptations, and in some cases are having to travel all around a hospital, facility or even a district.

So we know why time management is important, but how does an ultrasound technologist channel it?

Here are FIVE time management TIPS for sonographers:

1. Prepare for the Day

Being organized at the beginning of your day will help you work at optimal efficiency. If possible, it is worthwhile to show up even 15 minutes early to ensure you are stocked up with all the necessary supplies and instruments, and that the ultrasound equipment is in working order. If you know the schedule of the patients you will be seeing ahead of time, you can also get their charts in order and even review them to anticipate any unique needs. The extra time you spend being organized for the day will save you the stress of running around frantically later.

You or your ultrasound department might consider adopting a computerized Workflow Management System, which can help with patient scheduling, reducing wait times and more.

2. Foster and Employ Teamwork

On certain days or times of day, one of your colleagues may be busier than the rest of you. If you are able, offer to help your co-worker out. This will not only boost morale and make your department run more smoothly – you will also feel more comfortable asking for help when you are swamped.

3. Take Care of You

You might be tempted to skip breaks so you can get more done, when in fact avoiding those times to eat, drink and take a breather might make you burn out. The same goes for the importance of proper meals the entire day and getting a good’s night rest. It may seem obvious that taking good care of yourself helps you work more effectively, but we tend to forget this at our busiest times.

4. Avoid Distractions

Unless you’re waiting on an important call from one of your superiors or a consulting physician, turn off your phone/communications device, or get rid of anything that may pose a distraction. The minutes during the day that many of us are tempted to check our messages, e-mail or social media accounts add up to a chunk of time where we could have been productive.

5. Focus on the Task at Hand

We are often called upon to be expert multi-taskers, when in fact various studies say multitasking is not as effective as once thought. For example, in its article “Multitasking: Switching costs,” the American Psychological Association cites researcher David Meyer, PhD, as saying, “that even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone’s productive time.”

When possible, try to avoid multi-tasking, or at least try to only focus fully on the task at hand so that you can complete it well, and then move on the next tasks on your agenda.

A special thanks to Ken Galbraith for contributing to UltrasoundSchoolsInfo.com and for getting us to remember the importance of time management.

Here’s one more piece of advice from Instructor Galbraith that he has for aspiring sonographers:

“I find the most important thing to remind our students is that they are the authority. You are not pretending to be the expert. You are the expert and people are looking to you for answers. It is your responsibility to know your craft.”

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