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Medical Sonography: A job for the future of healthcare

Medical sonography is one of the fastest growing job fields in the healthcare profession, and demand for qualified technicians is expected to increase into the future.

To learn more, checkout the infographic below created by Adventist University’s Diagnostic Medical Sonography Bachelors Program.

Medical Sonography Careers

An Overview of Medical Sonography

Sonography is frequently called ultrasound imaging, and medical sonography technicians use a device known as a transducer that’s run over the surface of the skin in order to capture images of underlying body structures. This emits a high-frequency noise that isn’t perceptible to the human ears, and the resulting information produces detailed images that are accurate about the consistency, shape, and structure of the body’s organs and soft tissues. Alongside doctors, sonographers evaluate the results of an ultrasound exam to diagnose any underlying patient health problems.

The field of medical sonography is divided into nine main subcategories assigned to different healthcare areas. These types of sonography include:

- Abdominal
- Breast
- Cardiac
- Musculoskeletal
- OB-GYN
- Pediatric
- Phlebology
- Vascular
- Other clinical applications

Using Sonography for Diagnosis and Treatment

Ultrasound exams are used to diagnose and monitor a variety of medical conditions. They’re used to monitor the development and progress of the fetus during pregnancy. Other areas of detection include possibly precancerous breast abnormalities, gynecological conditions, injuries to soft internal tissue, problems with blood circulation, various heart conditions, and a number of other exploratory diagnostic procedures.

One of the main benefits of an ultrasound exam is that it’s painless and requires no incisions. Patients aren’t exposed to any radiation, and the tools are much more effective at making accurate images of soft tissues. Medical sonography equipment is also less expensive and less complicated to operate than some other types of medical equipment. Depending on the condition needing to be diagnosed, there are several different kinds of specialty ultrasounds. These include:

1. 3D imaging of the area recorded with sonography.

2. 4D imaging that shows organs or body systems in motion.

3. Bone sonography that creates images of skeletal systems.

4. Doppler ultrasounds that records the movement of blood through blood vessels.

5. Echocardiograms that generate images of the human heart.

6. Transrectal sonography that’s used in prostate exams.

7. Transvaginal ultrasounds that are used to record images of the ovaries, uterus, and the early stages of pregnancy.

The main disadvantage of using medical sonography is that the sound waves don’t transmit effectively through denser material in the body, such as bones or hollow cavities in different organ systems.

The Job Duties of a Medical Sonographer

An ultrasound technician is responsible for preparing the patient for the procedures and recording any related medical history. Sonographers are able to operate and maintain all needed equipment used for creating these digital images. These advanced digital images need to accurately capture the motion of the blood and organs, as well as the composition of body tissues. Sonography technicians check the results of each ultrasound exam for clarity and accuracy that are needed for a proper diagnosis. These medical technicians also need to be able to recognize the differences between abnormal and normal test results. They interpret these results and provide the needed diagnostic information for the attending physicians. Technicians finally document all exam results and track each patient’s progress.

Nearly 70% of all sonographers are employed in hospitals, and another 20% work in physicians’ offices. The remaining smaller groups of them work in other types of medical diagnostic laboratories. Specializations in sonography include cardiac, abdominal, musculoskeletal, obstetrics/gynecology, and vascular sonography. A very high number of medical sonographers report total job satisfaction in this field. About 45% of all ultrasound technicians have between one and four years of experience on the job. Up to 89% of ultrasound technicians are women.

Job Outlook and Salary for Medical Sonographers

There are currently 112,700 ultrasound technicians employed in the US, and this number is expected to increase to 140,200 by the year 2024. This translates into roughly a 26% job growth rate for medical sonographers. The average national salary for these medical technicians is $58,000. Those who have completed certifications in the industry earn higher than average salaries. These certifications include Registered Diagnostic Cardiac Sonographer, Registered, Vascular Technologist, and OB/GYN Sonographer.

Education and Training Requirements

Sonography technicians are required to complete formal secondary education, which most often entails a two-year degree in this medical specialty. The most recommended programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs. Some employers may require this type of degree completion from hired ultrasound technicians. Many employers also require sonographers to be certified by the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography.

Bachelor’s level degree programs in medical sonography are also available from many schools. A large number are accredited by the CAAHEP, which indicates high quality of education. Required courses in one of these programs include physical sciences, biology, clinical medicine, patient care procedures, practical ultrasound application, instrumentation, image evaluation, and diagnostic procedures. One of these four-year degree programs affords an ultrasound technician more opportunity to gain clinical experience and learn more specialty areas in this field. A bachelor’s degree program affords more job mobility and better opportunities even at the beginner level. It finally provides good salary possibilities and a good foundation for future advanced studies in the medical field.

For more information about training as a medical sonographer, individuals can check out plenty of information on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Getting in touch with working ultrasound technicians and asking questions is also a great way to find out more about this rewarding career field that has great growth potential going into the next decade. Many of them are more than willing to talk about their experiences in this job field that has a high rate of satisfaction as well as good potential for future advancement.