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Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

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Job Description

A diagnostic medical sonographer produces ultrasonic recordings of internal organs for use by physicians. The images and test results help physicians assess and diagnose medical conditions. 

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Help people find out what’s wrong with them
  • Education and training is affordable.
  • Job security
  • Flexible hours
     
2018 Employment
72,900
2028 Projected Employment
87,100
Similar Titles

Cardiac Sonographer, Cardiac/Vascular Sonographer, Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, Medical Sonographer, Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS), Sonographer, Staff Sonographer, Ultrasonographer, Ultrasound Technician (Ultrasound Tech), Ultrasound Technologist (Ultrasound Tech)

The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

Diagnostic medical sonographers typically do the following:

  • Prepare patients for procedures by taking their medical history and answering any questions about the procedure
  • Prepare and maintain diagnostic imaging equipment
  • Operate equipment to obtain diagnostic images or to conduct tests
  • Review images or test results to check for quality and adequate coverage of the areas needed for diagnoses
  • Recognize the difference between normal and abnormal images, and identify other diagnostic information
  • Analyze diagnostic information to provide a summary of findings for physicians
  • Record findings and keep track of patients’ records

Diagnostic medical sonographers specialize in creating images of the body’s organs and tissues. The images are known as sonograms or ultrasounds. Sonograms are often the first imaging tests performed when disease is suspected.

Skills Needed
  • Critical thinking
  • Active listening
  • Problem-solving
  • Decision-making
Different Types of Sonographers

Abdominal sonographers specialize in imaging a patient’s abdominal cavity and nearby organs, such as the kidney, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, or spleen. Abdominal sonographers may assist with biopsies or other examinations requiring ultrasound guidance.

Breast sonographers specialize in imaging a patient’s breast tissues. Sonography can confirm the presence of cysts and tumors that may have been detected by the patient, the physician, or a mammogram. Breast sonographers work closely with physicians and assist with procedures that track tumors and help to provide information that will aid doctors in making decisions about the best treatment options for breast cancer patients.

Cardiac sonographers (echocardiographers) specialize in imaging a patient’s heart. They use ultrasound equipment to examine the heart’s chambers, valves, and vessels. The images obtained are known as echocardiograms. An echocardiogram may be performed either while the patient is resting or after the patient has been physically active. Cardiac sonographers also may take echocardiograms of fetal hearts so that physicians can diagnose cardiac conditions during pregnancy. Cardiac sonographers work closely with physicians or surgeons before, during, and after procedures.

Musculoskeletal sonographers specialize in imaging muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints. These sonographers may assist with ultrasound guidance for injections, or during surgical procedures, that deliver medication or treatment directly to affected tissues.

Pediatric sonographers specialize in imaging children and infants. Many of the medical conditions they image are associated with premature births or birth defects. Pediatric sonographers may work closely with pediatricians and other caregivers.

Obstetric and gynecologic sonographers specialize in imaging the female reproductive system. Many pregnant women receive sonograms to track the baby’s growth and health. Obstetrical sonographers work closely with physicians in detecting congenital birth defects.

Vascular technologists (vascular sonographers) create images of blood vessels and collect data that help physicians diagnose disorders affecting blood flow. Vascular technologists often measure a patient’s blood pressure and the volume of blood in their arms, legs, fingers, and toes in order to evaluate blood flow and identify blocked arteries or blood clots in the body.

Different places of employment
  • Hospitals
  • Offices of physicians
  • Medical and diagnostic laboratories
  • Outpatient care centers
Expectations
  • May be on their feet for long periods and may need to lift or turn patients who are ill or disabled.
  • May work evenings, weekends, or overnight because they work in facilities that are always open.
What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were young...
  • Enjoyed solving puzzles and problems. 
  • Curious! 
  • Liked technology and learning about the new upgrades and advancements. 
Education and Training Needed
  • Education
    • Associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in sonography and in cardiovascular and vascular technology
    • One-year certificate programs also are available from colleges and some hospitals.
    • Employers typically prefer graduates of programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).
  • Training 
    • Clinical component in which students earn credit while working under a more experienced technologist in a hospital, a physician’s office, or an imaging laboratory.
  • Certification
    • Most employers prefer to hire diagnostic imaging workers with professional certification, or they may expect applicants to earn certification shortly after being hired. 
    • Many insurance providers and Medicare pay for procedures only if a certified sonographer, technologist, or technician performed the work. 
    • Certification is available from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, Cardiovascular Credentialing International, and American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.
    • Most of the certifications are for specialties in diagnostic imaging: abdominal, breast, cardiac, musculoskeletal, obstetric and gynecologic, pediatric, vascular
  • Licensure 
    • Few states require diagnostic medical sonographers to be licensed. Typically, professional certification is required for licensure; other requirements vary by state. Contact state medical boards for more information.
Things to do in high school
  • Take courses in math and sciences.
  • Shadow a medical sonographer to see if this is something you would be interested in 
  • Volunteer at a hospital
Typical Roadmap
Gladeo Diagnostic Medical Sonographer Roadmap
How to land your 1st job
  • Many employers prefer to hire candidates who have a basic life support (BLS) certification, which affirms that they are trained to provide CPR.
  • Diagnostic imaging personnel who are certified are expected to have the best job opportunities. Those certified in more than one specialty are expected to find even greater job opportunities.
Career Advancement

Tips on how to advance and become a: 

Manager

  • Be a model employee
  • When an opportunity comes, take it
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for a promotion

Ultrasound Researcher

  • For those who want to take an even more scientific approach to the bigger picture of sonography
  • Pursue a higher degree in sonography
  • Gain expertise in an ultrasound specialty
  • Reach out to other ultrasound researchers

Sonography Educator 

  • For those who have love for education and sonography
  • Earn a Master’s of PhD in sonography
  • Consider skills needed to become an educator
  • Minor in education as an undergraduate
Recommended Resources

SmartSonographer.com: Blog of sonographer

American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine external site
American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography external site
American Society of Echocardiography external site
Cardiovascular Credentialing International external site
Society for Vascular Ultrasound external site
Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography

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