The Ultrasound Technician, or Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, operates machinery called Sonographic Scanners which create images of the patient’s internal organs. Ultrasound Techs may work in physician’s offices, hospitals or clinics and weekend and night shifts may be required. The tech may specialize in different areas of the body, some may do obstetric sonography, breast sonography or vascular sonography. The U S Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 46% job growth in this field in the next several years.
The Ultrasound Technician will perform general, obstetric and vascular ultrasound procedures. The procedures may be performed in the department, in the OR or at bedside. The Sonographer works closely with the radiologist and other members of the healthcare team presenting data and images for interpretation and help in any interventional procedures. The tech must demonstrate independent judgment when performing procedures and addressing other unusual or difficult situations. The Sonographer is responsible for evaluating the images for technical quality and will utilize PACS (picture archiving and communications system) with accuracy. The tech will also accept additional tasks and assignments as needed within the department. Sometimes may be required to provide on-call rotations coverage during nights and weekends.
Before the session begins the Ultrasound Tech will explain the procedure to the patient and then make adjustments to the program and adjust the scanner for the specific procedure. Decisions on which images (sonograms) to retain for the physician for diagnostic purposes are the responsibility of the Sonographer. Ultrasound Technicians may perform procedures on OB patients to look at developing fetuses, but these procedures are also used in the diagnosis of brain, breast, heart and abdominal sonography.
Some duties of the Ultrasound Technician may include:
- Communicating clearly and comfortably with the patient to explain the procedure and answering their questions as well as relaying information about what to expect during the procedure.
- Verifying the patient clinical history and health status and evaluating related tests and images.
- Consulting with other medical professionals and independently assessing possible need to adapt the planned procedure in order to achieve optimal results.
- Communicating concerns to the referring or interpreting physician as needed prior to the planned procedure.
- Administering contrast media through an IV line as needed after receiving appropriate approval.
- Adhering to quality patient care standards as professionally defined throughout the procedure.
- Operating the ultrasound equipment and analyzing the findings in real time during the procedure to ensure optimal data and images are obtained.
- Assisting or physically moving the patient as necessary to ensure their comfort, a successful procedure and minimal patient exposure to high-frequency sound waves used in the procedure.
- Identification and documentation of unexpected results which may indicate the need for immediate medical attention or further testing.
- Evaluating the exam results to identify expected and unexpected outcomes as well as determining whether the appropriate testing protocols and guidelines were followed.
- Accurately completing the ultrasound technician worksheets that explain the test findings to the physician or other members of the health care team.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers require formal training, normally an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in Sonography and certificate programs. Programs studied would include anatomy, physiology, physics, patient care, instrumentation and ethics.