Ultrasonography, commonly called sonography, is a diagnostic medical procedure that uses high frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to produce dynamic visual images of organs, tissues, or blood flow inside the body. This type of procedure is often referred to as a sonogram or ultrasound scan. Sonography can be used to examine many parts of the body, such as the abdomen, breasts, female reproductive system, prostate, heart, and blood vessels. Sonography is increasingly being used in the detection and treatment of heart disease, heart attack, and vascular disease that can lead to stroke. It is also used to guide fine needle, tissue biopsy to assist in taking a sample of cells from an organ for lab testing (for example, a test for cancer in breast tissue). Unlike X-rays, sonography is a radiation-free imaging modality.
The non-physician professionals who perform these procedures are known as sonographers and vascular technologists (who are sonographers specializing in imaging and tests of blood vessels).
A diagnostic medical sonographer is a highly-skilled professional who uses specialized equipment to create images of structures inside the human body that are used by physicians to make a medical diagnosis. The process involves placing a small device called a transducer against the patient's skin near the body area to be imaged. The transducer works like a loudspeaker and microphone because it can transmit sound and receive sound. The transducer sends a stream of high frequency sound waves into the body that bounce off the structures inside. The transducer detects sound waves as they bounce off the internal structures. Different structures in the body reflect these sound waves differently. These sounds are analyzed by a computer to make an image of the structure(s) on a television screen or that can be recorded on videotape.
Sonographers have extensive, direct patient contact that may include performing some invasive procedures. They must be able to interact compassionately and effectively with people who range from healthy to critically ill.
The professional responsibilities include, but are not limited, to:
Sonographers must also be knowledgeable about and limit the risk from possible exposure to blood and body fluids. Many sonographers also assist in electronic and clerical scheduling, record keeping, and computerized image archiving. Sonographers may also have managerial or supervisory responsibilities.
The program’s technical coursework was designed following ARDMS Content Outlines for General and Vascular Sonography. The curriculum is designed to provide students with instruction in the classroom, laboratory and clinical setting to include these major topics:
Full time students can complete the program in two years (6 semesters). Students are required to complete the program in five years from when they enter the program. The program begins in June of each calendar year.
Students in the program have found that having a part-time or full time job is manageable, but does require excellent time management skills. The student must consider that during the second year of the program, clinical education consists of 32 hours per week for 2, 16 week semesters and one eight week semester. Clinical Education is usually conducted on four weekdays, from approximately 8:00 am – 4:30 pm, so it is important to take that into consideration when making a decision about working.
Courses are offered during the day and evening hours may be required in those courses that offer a laboratory component. There are no weekend course offerings. Sonography courses are sequenced to provide one annual offering of each course.
Sonographers and Vascular Technologists must be able to:
Sonography is a dynamic profession that has grown significantly over the past 20 years. With rapidly developing new technologies and increased use of diagnostic ultrasound procedures, growth is projected to continue in the future with employment opportunities for qualified sonographers in both urban and rural areas nationwide. Sonographers and vascular technologists can choose to work in clinics, hospitals, private practice physician offices, public health facilities, laboratories, and other medical settings performing examinations in their areas of specialization. Career advancement opportunities exist in education, administration, research, and in commercial companies as education/application specialists, sales representatives, technical advisors, etc.
In addition to excellent career opportunities, salaries for sonographers are competitive with or higher than other professionals with similar levels of education. According to the SDMS Salary and Benefits Survey report, the median salary for sonographers is $61,984. This income includes: 1) hourly salary, 2) overtime and, 3) on-call pay. The typical hourly pay rate is $29, and the number of overtime hours worked per week by sonographers is 3. The typical on-call pay rate is $3.00 per hour, and the call-in rate of pay is $42 per hour.
Salaries vary depending on years of experience, number of specialties practiced, as well geographic location. There are opportunities for full-time and part-time employment.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics cites sonography as one of the top 20 fastest growing occupations in the US.
Yes, there are bachelor degree opportunities offered at Bowling Green State University, Ohio University, Lourdes College and Siena Heights College.