Considering a Career as an Ultrasound Technician?
Ultrasound (US) is one of the most rapidly expanding fields in current medical-imaging practice. As both a hospital-based modality as well as in outpatient imaging centers, the total number of US exams being performed in the United States is increasing every year. As such, there is an increasing need for skilled US technicians nationwide.
There are many factors that make US an attractive choice for imaging studies. Perhaps the most important of which is the fact that US images are obtained without the use of potentially dangerous radiation. One of the other most common types of imaging technology currently in use is computed tomography (CT). While CT scans provide very useful information, this comes at a cost: the use of ionizing radiation, which is known to cause cancer. While CT scanning certainly has a place in current medical practice, it’s overuse and the dangers that ensue as a result of exposure to radiation are only now becoming fully understood by the medical community. It is currently estimated that 1-2% of all cancers diagnosed each year in the United States occur as a result of radiation received from medical imaging.
Another benefit of US is that it can be performed quickly, and if necessary, at the patient’s bedside. This factor separates US from all other types of diagnostic imaging, which require that the patient be transported to the radiology suite. In critically ill or unstable patients, this means they must be moved out of clinical care areas and away from treating physicians. This can expose patients to increased risks of adverse events or bad outcomes during transport, particularly in difficult to access areas such as elevators or remote imaging suites.
Ultrasound technicians can also play an integral role as part of the healthcare team, particularly when performing off-hours exams. Given the rigorous training they undergo and the expertise they acquire through performing hundreds of US exams, technicians are often able to advise the ordering clinician of significant findings as soon as the exam is completed (or even while the exam is still in progress).
With so many varieties of US exams being performed, and the multiple board-certifications one can receive, there are multiple career paths that a technician can choose. For example, the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARMDS) offers certification in abdomen, breast, adult and pediatric echocardiography, vascular technology, and obstetrics and gynecology, to name a few. Many currently practicing sonographers hold multiple board-certifications.
In addition, the opportunities for continued advancement within each individual field are enormous, and there are several career paths from which one can choose. While the majority of careers involve performing US exams, interested sonographers can participate in clinical or technology-based research, focus on education and training, or some combination thereof.
Given that there are so many benefits to US as an imaging modality, it is no surprise that ultrasound technician job demand is extremely high. More than that, as more US exams are ordered by clinicians, hospitals will need to expand their workforce. As more institutions begin to schedule and complete inpatient exams 24 hours a day, where in the past they were only performed during daytime hours, the demand will be greater still. The use of US in the outpatient setting is also continuing to grow, with new imaging centers opening all across the nation. These facilities need skilled and competent technicians to perform their US exams.
Ultrasound is an exciting field that continues to grow in scope and importance within the medical community. As the use of diagnostic US grows, the demand for competent technicians to fill new positions will grow as well. Thus, a career in sonography will lead to professional success and personal satisfaction.