Ultrasound, also called sonography, is a technology that creates detailed images of the human body using high frequency sound waves. Ultrasound technicians, also called diagnostic medical sonographers, are medical professionals who administer ultrasounds to patients. Technicians create images of organs within the human body to assist doctors in detecting or documenting illnesses, visualizing blood flow, monitoring the growth of a developing fetus or assessing an injury. To become an ultrasound technician, you must complete an accredited training program and possess the skills needed to be successful in the field.
Attention to Detail
An ultrasound technician must have a strong attention to detail. She must follow precise instructions to obtain the necessary images doctors need to treat or diagnose a patient. Sometimes the smallest abnormality in an ultrasound can make the difference on an accurate diagnosis.
An ultrasound technician must be able to move hand-held devices along a patient’s body in ways that produce quality images, all while watching a video monitor of the patient’s internal organs. This requires good hand-eye coordination and careful attention to the slightest movements of one’s hand.
Diagnostic medical sonographers work closely with patients, often in sensitive medical situations. Patients can be in extreme pain, or under mental or emotional duress. A patient must cooperate in order to get usable images for diagnosis. A sonographer should have a friendly, stable demeanor and remain calm and supportive under emotionally difficult situations.
This is not a job where you sit at a desk all day. Diagnostic medical sonographers work on their feet, sometimes for long periods of time. You must be able to lift and move patients who need assistance getting on and off of an exam table.
Songraphers operate complex medical equipment and computerized instruments. They must possess the technical ability to understand how this equipment works and how to operate it efficiently. They also should be knowledgeable in making adjustments to the equipment to produce the best images possible.
Patients often have questions about how a sonogram works, what the technician is looking for and even what the technician is seeing on the screen. Patients may even need help preparing for the procedure. An ultrasound technician should have good communication skills to be able to answer patient’s inquiries in a clear and concise way.
An ultrasound technician is often the first to identify a medical problem. However, an ultrasound tech is not trained to make a diagnosis and should not inform a patient of a medical condition. Ultrasound technicians need to maintain discretion until a patient can see a doctor for a complete diagnosis and explanation of her medical condition.
After competing an ultrasound exam, a sonographer needs to send images to other medical professionals for review or diagnosis. Accompanying these images is a written report that summarizes their findings. Ultrasound techs should possess strong writing skills and a command of medical terminology.
An ultrasound tech is part of a team of medical professionals who work together to provide overall care for a patient. To be effective, sonographers must work well with physicians, nurses and other medical staff.
An ultrasound tech has a busy day, full of appointments and responsibilities. She must be able to manage her time efficiently to keep patient appointments on schedule, complete necessary forms and confer with physicians or others colleagues as needed.
Laura La Bella has worked as a marketing communications writer and editor in the fields of advertising, development and higher education for more than 15 years. She has authored more than two dozen nonfiction books for young adults, covering biographies of socially relevant people, timely social issues and career paths.