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A diagnostic medical sonographer is a professional who uses special equipment that depicts images of the inside of the human body. Those images are then displayed on a monitor and used by physicians to make diagnoses.
A sonographer applies a colorless and odorless gel on the skin in the area being examined. He or she then uses a small apparatus called a transducer on the same surface of the skin, which transmits sound waves inside the patient's body. These sound waves bounce back and create an image. That image is shown on a monitor, and is used to detect diseases, evaluate the health of an organ, or follow the progression of a fetus.
Unlike X-ray monitoring, the use of ultrasounds, or sonographs, does not emit harmful radiation. As a result, sonography is an expanding field as more people are choosing to use safer means of monitoring inside the human body.
Most sonographers work in a hospital setting, though some work in clinics, private doctor offices, laboratories, and public health facilities. A sonographer may choose to specialize in a certain area or areas. Some specialties include abdominal areas, obstetrics and gynecology, vascular technology, neurosonology, breast screening, and ophthalmology.
Typically, a sonographer spends prolonged periods of time standing. He also typically has to be able to lift up to 50 pounds (about 23 kg), bend frequently, and be in full use of the hands, wrists and shoulders. A sonographer has to be able to communicate with physicians, nurses, and patients, some of whom are healthy, and others who are critically ill.
Prerequisites to becoming a sonographer varies among countries and even US states. Typically, to become a sonographer in the US, one to four years of education and experience will be necessary to become sufficiently proficient in a given specialty. Though the amount of years studying varies by specialty, most sonographers spend about two years training at a hospital, vocational and technical institutions, colleges and universities, or the Armed Forces.
It is important for a sonographer to ensure that the institution where he or she is studying is reputable because many employers look to hire from accredited institutions. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) is one of the places where one can obtain a list of accredited programs in diagnostic medical sonography.
Some of the benefits of sonography work include helping people, interacting with patients one-on-one, and expanding one’s skills as the field of ultrasound technology expands.
@strawCake - You're so right about the variable working conditions. I had an abdominal ultrasound done at a medical imaging center and the conditions for my ultrasound tech were much different than what you're describing.
The tech who performed my ultrasound told me she loved her job! She worked regular hours at the imaging center and did her ultrasounds by appointments. So not too much rushing around, unlike at a hospital. My tech also told me she really enjoyed interacting with the patients which I thought was really nice.
I had an ultrasound done on my legs recently. My doctor suspected I had a blood clot, but luckily it turned out to be nothing. I did get a chance to chat with the ultrasound technician a little bit though and I found out some interesting things about the job.
I had my ultrasound done in a hospital late and night, so the tech who performed my ultrasound was the only one on duty. She told me that some nights she is bored because no one needs an ultrasound but then other nights she runs around like crazy! So you never know. She also told me she deals with a lot of interesting patients and some of them can be quite difficult.
I would imagine that working conditions would vary depending on where you work though.