Job Description

What Do Ultrasound Technicians Do?

The world is full of interesting careers. From DJs to Presidents, master chefs to midwives, there’s simply no shortage of interesting paths to pursue in this great, big world of ours. One such fascinating career path is that of the Ultrasound Technician or, as she’s also known, the sonographer. Most of us can easily conjure an image of what an Ultrasound Technician does with her days. The same technology that allows us to see a fetus in utero allows us, also, to create images of most major internal body tissues and organs; these images, in turn, can display internal abnormalities, such as cancers and other dangerous conditions hitherto invisible to the physician’s eye.

Let’s have a closer look.

Background

An ultrasound technician, or sonographer, uses ultrasound technology to create images which are then used by physicians to diagnose physical conditions ranging from cancers to heart disease. Ultrasound images via sonar technology, the same technology that allows submarines and naval ships to pinpoint objects and dangers beneath the surface of the ocean by ‘pinging’ them with sound waves and recording the ‘echoes’ made as the sound waves bounce back from the objects they’ve hit. The uses of sonar technology in medicine became obvious as early as the 1950s, and practical applications of the technology in healthcare were in common use by the end of the following decade.

As you know, the most celebrated use of ultrasound technology is in gaging the health, and sex, of unborn fetuses. Prior to the introduction of the technology to hospitals and doctor’s offices, it was quite impossible to have a clear view of what was happening in utero over the course of a woman’s pregnancy. In the late 1960s and early ’70s, all that changed. Suddenly it was not only possible, but completely normal to know the sex of one’s future child as well as its current bill of health.

But ultrasound technicians, as above, do far more than just assist with pregnancy health checks. Specifically, this same technology can be used to find unusual or abnormal formations within a patient’s body. Abnormalities and dangerous growths such as cancers can be routinely identified using ultrasound technology. As such, ultrasound technicians are ultimately involved in far more diagnostic and treatment programs than most people realize.

Work Environment

Ultrasound technicians work in a variety of environments, from dedicated testing centers to hospital units to mobile laboratories. Those who work in traditional health maintenance and care environments, like hospitals and clinics, tend to work mostly from a dedicated workstation or desk. Some hospital technicians, however, must work in a mobile fashion, going from room to room with portable equipment in order to assist in the treatment of patients who are in-ambulatory and cannot otherwise be moved from their beds in a safe manner.

How to Become and Ultrasound Technician

To become an ultrasound technician you must first successfully accomplish a post-secondary academic course heavy in science and math. These courses come in several lengths and ‘flavors’. By far the most popular is the two year course leading to an associate in science degree. Healthcare career professionals wishing to become sonographers can generally become certified with a vocational certificate in one year’s time. Shorter courses do exist, the most common being six or eight week courses; however, these are not recommended as the scope of knowledge and experience imparted to the student is skimpy to say the least. Following certification, be it one or two years in length, it’s generally recommended that the aspiring technician complete an internship with a reputable hospital or clinic. Finally, upon completing an internship, you can, though it’s optional, take the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography exams; these, again, are optional, but will greatly increase your chances of getting hired as an ultrasound technician.

It’s a great big world we live in. With so many things to do, so many paths to pursue, it can be difficult to decide on a career. However, decide we must, or be ever floating in a sea of unrealized possibilities. If you have the brains and the curiosity for it, ultrasound technician might be just the right career for you.