Sonographers, or ultrasound technicians, operate sophisticated imaging equipment that makes use of sound waves to capture images of specific parts of the body. Physicians frequently request ultrasound images to help them diagnose and treat a variety of medical conditions. Ultrasound technicians need to earn at least an associate degree in diagnostic medical sonography to be eligible for employment. Though programs differ in their requirements, there are some essential classes that students need to take.
Sonography and Physics Principles
Beginning students receive an overview of sonography and how it is used in practice. Most students take at least three or four classes in which they learn about ultrasound physics concepts as they apply to the equipment they will use on the job. Because ultrasound equipment uses sound to produce images, students must understand how to optimize images by adjusting sound frequency, intensity and velocity. Advanced sonography and physics courses teach students more in-depth principles of interpreting and analyzing sound frequency. About half of this type of coursework is done in a laboratory so students can gain hands-on experience that relates to the workplace.
Imaging Principles and Examination
Sonography is regularly used to examine the fetus of pregnant women, so there is a special emphasis on studying the abdomen and pelvis. Students learn how to scan and take images of different parts of the body based on physician requests, and they practice enhancing the images they capture. Additionally, students learn how to examine images for clarity, specificity and accuracy. Taking precise images with sonography equipment requires skill and concentration, so these courses are among the most important.
Most programs require students to take one medical terminology course so they can become familiar with terms they are likely to see and hear on the job. Primarily, students study terms that are relevant to the field of sonography, but they also learn some other terms that they may encounter in the workplace. Students practice writing notes in patient charts, reading and interpreting messages from physicians and creating messages for physicians.
Ultrasound Equipment and Supplies
In laboratory courses, students gain hands-on experience working with ultrasound equipment. During this process, they practice setting up equipment in examination rooms and checking to ensure that the machinery is functioning properly. Ultrasound technicians are generally responsible for maintaining the equipment and supplies they use, so students must learn proper care and maintenance of the tools they will use on the job.
Clinical Settings, Ethics and Privacy
To prepare students for work in hospitals, clinics and physician’s offices, it is essential that they have the opportunity to practice working with patients. Internships are a necessary part of any ultrasound technician program, as they give students valuable experience working with the type of patients they are likely to encounter at work. Because these professionals work with patients all the time, they must also learn the importance of maintaining high ethical standards and patient privacy. Commonly, students take a course related to ethics and privacy issues.
- Bellevue College: Associate in Arts Degree: Diagnostic Ultrasound
- ECPI University: Diagnostic Medical Sonography: Associate of Applied Science
- Miami Dade College: Diagnostic Medical Sonography: Associate in Science
- Lackawanna College: Health Care Services Division: Diagnostic Medical Sonography
- Northeast Wisconsin Technical College: Diagnostic Medical Sonography: Associate Degree
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