What Does An Ultrasound Technician Do
“When I grow up, I want to be an ultrasound technician!” probably isn’t the most common reply, a kid would give when asked what he wants to do when he grows up. It’s not a job name, that rolls from one’s tongue, either.
Alternative names for an ultrasound technician are diagnostic medical sonographer or just sonographer. While those names are probably as difficult to pronounce and remember, they do help us have a better understanding of what people in this line of work, do for a living.
An ultrasound scan, or a so-called sonogram, is a non-invasive way of examining issues, invisible from the outside. In the 21st century, we wouldn’t be able to imagine the world of modern medicine without it.
When we hear this job name mentioned, probably the first thing that comes to mind is an image of a person whose only job is to determine the sex of an unborn baby.
However, the ultrasound is essential in a very extensive spectrum of diagnostic, and there’s so much more to an ultrasound technician’s job than we think.
Ultrasound scans are widely spread all around the world, and luckily quite common, and accessible these days. They are safe and seldom cause any discomfort.
You don’t need much of a preparation for you to go and get scanned, but it is advised to bring comfortable and loose attire to your appointment. It is advised to take off any accessories, such as piercings, earrings, or necklaces.
The ultrasound scans take up anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes of your life, and they can be one thing that will help you save it.
One ultrasound scan can mean a difference between discovering a dangerous disease on time, or only when it is too late to react and do anything about it.
SO, WHAT DOES AN ULTRASOUND TECHNICIAN DO?
There are so many amazing doctors out there in the world.
Those doctors are heroes that save human lives every single day. However, they’re not miracle-workers.
They can try their best to give a proper diagnosis of a patient’s condition, based on different things. Those are visible symptoms, lab, or test results.
They can get information by listening to them and asking them the right questions. However, they can’t always know or see what is going on inside the patient’s body.
That’s where our already mentioned ultrasound technicians, come into play.
An ultrasound technician is a medical specialist, whose task is to manage equipment that employs high-frequency sound waves to record pictures and videos of internal organs, blood vessels, and tissues.
They can focus on distinct branches of their profession within which they specialize. For instance, echocardiography, and breast ultrasound are just some examples of already mentioned distinct branches.
Sonographers have to communicate with people who come to them for examination, as well as handle situations that are far from ideal.
Sonographers will sometimes come into contact with patients in a vulnerable and unstable state, and dealing with those cases will require a huge physical and psychological strength on their part.
They also must try to understand what those individuals are going through and sympathize with them.
Patients don’t always want to cooperate with hospital staff, so it can make the job more demanding.
Ultrasound technicians always have to answer all of the questions their patients might have about the procedure, no matter how silly they may be. The questions can and will get repetitive.
To get proper scans, the ultrasound technician will have to help the patient position their body. Whether it be by explaining to them how to do it or physically helping them adjust, it is their obligation.
The vast majority of ultrasound technicians work in hospitals, although some work in private clinics, doctor’s offices or, diagnostic imaging centers.
Because they work in hospitals, their schedule isn’t something they can choose, nor is it always great. Jobs are most often full time, and some of them may work long hours into the night.
Working in a hospital also includes working on weekends, and oftentimes holidays, also being active and on your feet throughout your work hours. They always have to be ready to take action immediately, if needed.
They have to be concentrated on their work and always present in the moment. When they notice any anomalies, they are required to instantly inform the relevant medical personnel in case the patient needs urgent care.
Being an ultrasound technician means working fine alone, with almost no supervision, but also managing great as a member of a team of multiple people. There’s no place in this line of work for people who aren’t willing to be flexible and respectful to their colleagues.
When needed, they will help radiologists in more complex medical procedures, such as ultrasound-guided biopsies.
Working as a sonographer means being able to adapt to different and fast-changing work circumstances. They quite frequently have to make on-the-spot decisions and think of solutions for different problems.
We’ve now established that being an ultrasound technician means you are working closely with many different people every day. Like any job that requires direct contact with other humans, it can be both fulfilling and draining.
It isn’t an easy job by any means, but it is quite rewarding.
HOW DOES THE ULTRASOUND SCAN WORK?
You must admit that it’s quite pointless to talk all about an ultrasound technician’s job, without mentioning how the actual ultrasound scan works. It is, after all, the main set of equipment ultrasound technicians use.
Without getting too unnecessarily deep into the physics of it all, here’s how it all functions.
Ultrasound machines usually have three parts: a computer console, a screen, and a small, hand-sized gadget called a transducer. This gadget sends as well as catches returned sound waves. The screen displays the video.
As we’ve already recounted, the ultrasound delivers pictures and videos of the interior of the human body.
This is only possible because of the emission of high-frequency sound waves. The ultrasound machine sends, between 2-18 megahertz (MHz) sound oscillations, into a patient’s body.
This is a frequency that the human ear cannot recognize.
The human ear only hears an extremely narrow spectrum of sound. On average, the range stretches from 20 to 20,000 Hz.
The waves of sound progress inside the body, and when they come to a boundary separating, for example, bone and soft tissue, they echo.
These echos are picked up by the probe, which is a rather thin medical tool made from metal. The echoed waves are the ones that produce the image that appears the screen of the computer.
The ultrasound scan estimates the distance from the probe to the, in this case, the boundary separating bone and tissue.
Employing the so-called ‘speed of sound in soft tissue,’ and the number of seconds each wave needs to make its way back, the ultrasound creates a two-dimensional or a three-dimensional image of the part of the body it’s examining.
Tissues differ in density and consequently are colored differently on the computer screen. That’s how we can differentiate and recognize them.
HOW DOES ONE (EVER) BECOME AN ULTRASOUND TECHNICIAN?
If you are, indeed, that one child that expressed their want of becoming an ultrasound technician since young, or someone who’s considering this carrier path right now, there are numerous options for you to check out.
It is by no means an unreachable goal. So don’t worry, kid! You will be able to accomplish your dreams!
The education process for this carrier path takes anywhere from one to four years, and there are three different levels of degree. Of course, all of the information given in this article may vary from one educational facility to another.
The first level we’re going to be discussing is exclusively for people who already have some experience working in healthcare. It is to enroll in a course and earn a certificate in sonography.
This course usually takes a year, rarely two, and is the quickest out of all of the possible options.
It is the shortest out of all of them because it is the case that those who apply already have practical experience in working in different medical facilities.
Practical experience in the medical world is almost as important as education and studied theory.
The certificate you will earn, isn’t a requirement everywhere, as an example, in some American states, you can apply for a position of a sonographer, even if you don’t have said certificate.
However, most medical institutions favor those candidates who do have a valid certificate, and they are more likely to offer them a position.
The second option is to get an Associate Degree in sonography, which will prepare students for beginner positions. It leaves room for them to advance further in their career later on. This is also the option that most people choose.
The candidates applying need to have completed their high-school education.
This option, on average, takes about two years. However, some schools offer courses that last up to a year and a half. Those schools have more intense schedules, so that way they can speed up the schooling process.
The third and also concluding option we are going to be discussing is a Bachelor’s degree. This is a four-year-long program, usually accessible to people who are already registered sonographers.
People who apply to these programs are those who want to advance further in their work field as well as find long-term jobs in healthcare. Different factors motivate people to pursue further education.
One of the main factors is, of course, money, because sonographers who earn a Bachelor’s degree have bigger starting salaries. However, there are also many other factors.
People interested in one specific branch of sonography continue further education to specialize. This program opens many doors to elite and well-paid medical positions.
A great thing about many Bachelor’s programs is that, in most cases, people continue working part-time or even full-time while completing it.
Many schools offer courses that are available online in their entirety. This is only possible because of the nature of a sonographer’s job. They already have practical experience working in hospitals, labs, and using different equipment.
Some schools offer flexible, very adjustable schedules an individual can then customize to fit their needs. Those can be, for example, evening or sometimes early morning lectures. That way, people can manage to attend all of their classes, without missing work.
Some people choose to complete a Bachelor’s degree first and then enroll in medical school. This degree is one of several different, so-called ‘pre-med’ options for people to consider when applying.
WHAT CAN HELP YOU ADVANCE FURTHER?
As we’ve already seen and discussed, being an ultrasound technician isn’t just about knowing how to work complicated devices. That is something people are trained for, of course. Yet, there’s so much more to it. This job also consists of firsthand contact with people who are your patients.
You might have questions similar to: ‘What are some skills I need to have to succeed?’ and ‘How can I be the best at this job?’
I’m afraid there’s no certain road or shortcuts to success.
No matter where you work, in your specific area of expertise, there are always people who have the same education as you and possess the same or similar amount of knowledge.
That’s why you, besides your education, need something that will make you stand out from the crowd. This is what may decide whether you get the job you’re applying for, or not. This still won’t guarantee you success, but then again, what will?
If anything, it will greatly increase your chances of getting a promotion and advancing further.
Ultrasound technicians should possess certain positive traits alongside their medical training to be exceptional at their job.
These traits aren’t helpful just in this carrier field but many others as well. In the business world, they’re known as ‘soft skills’.
Because ultrasound technicians are in contact with different people every day, they need to be great at verbal communication.
They should be eloquent, polite, and patient. This is very important and shouldn’t be overlooked.
After all, we’ve all had our fair share of experiences with rude doctors, dentists, nurses, or others. And we’ve also probably remembered it.
Even if you possess a great amount of knowledge, and are an expert at your job, you can’t allow yourself to be anything but polite to your patients. They are the reason why you get to do what you do.
If you want to advance further in this branch of healthcare, as well as be good at your job, you need to realize that learning is a never-ending process.
Science and medicine are always advancing and evolving. People that work in healthcare need to actively learn new things so they can provide the best possible treatment for their patients.
This means attending different seminars, courses, reading the latest scientific studies, and keeping up with the news.
As we’ve already established, getting a higher education is also a factor that can help you progress. I know that is easier said than done.
Studying further requires plenty of time, effort and for you to dedicate yourself to what you’re studying. But if you’re passionate enough it is surely reachable.
Not everyone wants to put in additional effort into their education, so by doing so, you are already increasing your chances of getting a better position.
There are countless different jobs and possibilities out there in the world for us to discover and experience. No career path is more important than the other.
There always will be professions and jobs we’ve never even heard of before. Or maybe we have, but we haven’t had any interest in getting to know all the circumstances regarding them.
Nevertheless, we shouldn’t judge any job or profession before we learn enough about it.
We’ve certainly concluded that ultrasound technicians do very important work that shouldn’t be belittled. Ultrasound technicians are one of many hidden heroes that allow our society to function the way it does.
They are a vital part of the world of medical diagnostic. It is a job that requires not only knowledge of theory: chemistry, biology, and physics, but also practical knowledge, critical thinking, social skills, and adroitness. The job isn’t easy and requires good stamina as well.
It is an important and respectable career, which is currently getting more and more popular. Even if you’re just starting at entry-level, it is still a job that pays very well.
It isn’t just getting more popular, but it’s also currently in significant demand. Some researchers say that the number of working sonographers will increase by 17% in the next ten years.
So maybe soon in the future, when we ask our kids what they want to be when they grow up, instead of the usual answers such as ‘President!’, ‘Princess!’ or ‘Singer!’, they’ll answer with ‘When I grow up, I want to be an ultrasound technician!’
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