As ultrasonography is used more frequently and in varying fields of medicine, the demand for qualified ultrasound technicians is rapidly increasing. Ultrasound technicians must be able to comfortably work with many different types of patients and be proficient in the use of ultrasound techniques and equipment.
Ultrasonography provides images of internal organs and unborn fetuses by the use of sound waves that are sent through the body wall via a tool called a transducer. The images captured by the sound waves are transmitted back to a machine that produces a picture on a screen. The images are shown in real-time video, and the technician can pause significant parts of the video to measure and mark specific details. A permanent recording can be made of the test along with individual photographs of specific moments of the recording.
Ultrasound Technician Opportunities
Ultrasound technicians are employed in a variety of healthcare settings. They often work alongside X-ray technicians in a hospital’s radiology department. Ultrasound technicians are also found in doctor’s offices, especially in the field obstetrics and gynecology. They also work in large clinics where frequent ultrasound examinations are performed. With the advent of mobile sonography, many technicians travel with equipment while employed with home health care or to nursing homes and doctors’ offices. Some individuals work in exciting fields such as research or as educators in the college setting. Professionals who have an affinity for the technical operations of ultrasound equipment may enjoy working in equipment sales, instructing facilities on the operation of new equipment, displaying and demonstrating devices at trade shows and overseeing the installation of ultrasound machines in the clinical setting.
Responsibilities of the Professional
The ultrasound technician who works in a clinical setting may see several patients throughout the day. Excellent interpersonal skills are required because the professional will be responsible for caring for many different types of people from varying backgrounds. The technician should maintain a caring yet professional attitude while understanding that most patients undergoing procedures are under a significant amount of stress.
Ultrasound Technician Job Description
The typical duties of an ultrasound technician during the day include the following:
Verifying the patient’s specifically ordered procedures and verifying the information with the medical history and past tests
Putting the patient at ease and explaining the procedure while answering any questions
Relating specific significant findings to the ordering physician
Employing the help of other health professionals if assistance is needed with the patient or with performing the procedure
IV contrast media administration as ordered by the physician
Operating the ultrasound equipment efficiently and in real time
Assisting the patient with repositioning to gain optimal imaging
Reviewing the ultrasound results to be sure that the prescribed images were obtained
Ultrasound technicians should be well-trained in the basics of patient care that include moving, positioning and transportation. Patients that are brought down to the imaging department may need assistance with moving from the bed or wheelchair to the exam table and back again. Many patients need help moving into certain positions to enable the test to be performed correctly. Often, other staff such as assistants and co-workers are needed to help move patients safely and comfortably.
Fortunately, many hospitals use portable equipment that the technician can take to hospital rooms, such as in intensive care units, where the patients are very fragile and should not be moved. The mobile units are also used in the operating room to allow the surgeon for optimal visualization, especially during emergency procedures.
Certification standards may vary from region to region, but most professionals are required to fulfill certain educational requirements. Ultrasound technicians need to obtain credits at the college level in courses such as communications, algebra, physics and biology. Certification can be acquired after fulfilling the requirements of a one- or two-year program. One-year certificates can be gained by those individuals who have previous and qualified health care clinical experience. Two-year programs should be followed by students that lack any previous clinical exposure.
Physical and Mental Requirements
Working as an ultrasound technician requires physical stamina. Many times, the professional is required to lift, move and reposition patients. Busy days may call for the individual to walk throughout the facility during the day in order to perform mobile services. Ultrasound technicians must have good communication skills in order to receive and relay information with physicians, patients and other co-workers. Good writing skills are required so that pertinent information is correctly relayed. The professional should also be comfortable using technical equipment and have a good eye for visualizing details.