Although ultrasound technicians are most commonly recognized for monitoring fetal health and snapping baby's first in-utero picture, their job description entails much more. Ultrasound techs use sound waves to create images of patients' internal organs within the breast, abdominal cavity and vascular system. Because of the scientific and social aspects of the job, training ranges from coursework in anatomy to classes in communication skills.
If you're interested in becoming an ultrasound technician you should have completed high school courses in algebra, physics and basic sciences, such as chemistry and biology, according to the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics, recommends coursework in mathematics and physiology. If you didn't complete these subjects in high school, sign up for courses at your local community college. Learning a foreign language might also prove helpful since, like other health-care workers, ultrasound technicians assist patients from diverse nationalities and ethnic groups.
Ultrasound technician training is offered through technical schools, community colleges and universities. Applicants who have already completed considerable health-care training, such as nurses, are eligible for one-year diploma programs. Students with no previous health-care experience must complete either a two year associate degree or a four year bachelor’s degree program. To gain admittance, applicants must have already passed college level algebra, physics, biological science and communications. Ultrasound tech program coursework includes patient care, physical sciences, clinical medicine, instrumentation, applications of ultrasound, image evaluation and related diagnostic procedures, according to CAAHEP. Additional classes include pathophysiology, human anatomy, obstetrics and ultrasound equipment.
Clinical practice is an integral part of ultrasound technician programs so that students can gain hands on experience executing the theory they’ve learned. Many programs require students to rotate through various ultrasound tech specialties, including breast ultrasound, abdominal ultrasound, fetal ultrasound, neurosonology, obstetrics and gynecology, echocardiology and vascular technology.
In addition to the coursework required, aspiring ultrasound technicians should also have certain skills to help them perform their duties effectively. These include critical thinking skills, social perceptiveness, study skills , active listening, reading comprehension, and the ability to communicate effectively both orally and in writing.
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