Introduction to Ultrasound Technologist Schools

UltrasoundTechnologistSchools provides you with resource guides to getting a degree in ultrasound technology. Ultrasound technologists are able to perform ultrasound readings on patients at hospitals or health clinics. Ultrasonography is often used to diagnose the health of a fetus in utero.

To become a medical ultrasonographer, or ultrasound tech, some training is required through associate in healthcare or related programs. Of ultrasound technologists with college experience, the two-year associates degree is most prevalent. The online degrees available are only health-related degrees that can be used in the ultrasound tech field, because there are actually no specific ultrasound tech degrees.

DeVry University
AS in Health IT
DeVry University — DeVry University's AS in health information technology degree program is not a sonography program, but might make a good background for the field. It prepares students to enter into the fastest growing job market. The program covers the entry-level competencies required by the American Health Information Management Association, as well as coding, chart management, and laboratory software. Note that program and course availability varies by location.
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Kaplan University
AS in Health IT
Kaplan University — Kaplan University's AS in medical assisting, though not specifically an ultrasound program, prepares students to interact with patients and physicians by taking information, preparing exam rooms, performing basic laboratory tests, and managing patient records. Students are required to complete clinical training in an externship in a health care facility to gain valuable on-the-job experience that will help them find jobs upon graduation.
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Description of Ultrasound Technologist Schools:

To become an ultrasound technologist you must go through training and earn a certificate, or even a degree. This means completing a two-to-four year program resulting in an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Sometimes these programs are also called diagnostic medical sonography programs. Ultrasound technologist programs exist online as well as at community colleges, tech schools, medical schools, or other universities and colleges. The most important thing in seeking an ultrasound technologist school is to find a CAAHEP, or Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, accredited and recognized program.

What is Ultrasound Technology?

At ultrasound technologist schools you’ll learn how to correctly give an ultrasound to a patient. Ultrasound imaging uses high frequency sound waves to view soft tissues such as muscles and internal organs. Since ultrasound images are captured in real-time, they can show movement of the body’s internal organs as well as blood flowing through blood vessels. As an ultrasound technologist, you’ll place a hand-held transducer next to the patient’s skin. The transducer will send out high frequency sound waves that reflect off of the patient’s body structures. The returning sound waves, or echoes, are displayed as an image on a monitor. You’ll be in charge of recording that image and making sure the settings are correct. The image is based on the frequency and strength of the sound signal, and the time it takes to return from the patient to the transducer.

Ultrasound Technologist School Training:

Since ultrasound technology is a specialized medical field, a technologist needs specific training that can only come from an ultrasound technology or sonography program. Ultrasound technology has vigorous regulations to ensure that the technology is properly used. The United States Food and Drug Administration regulates diagnostic and therapeutic ultrasound equipment. Therefore, through your education you’ll learn these regulations and how they limit the amount of hertz, or acoustic output, of the equipment. These regulations exist because even sound waves, when misused, can be detrimental to a person’s health.

Ultrasound technician programs cover the foundation of all the skills an ultrasound technician would need to know, such as human anatomy, physics, and medical ethics. Coursework also includes physiology, medical terminology, and health care procedures. Specialization or elective courses are then the bulk of the program’s coursework. Students must learn how to use and read ultrasound equipment for that specific specialization. For example, if the student is looking to specialize in obstetrics, then a large portion of his or her studies will be dedicated to learning female reproductive health, fetal health and development, and other related subjects. This is in addition to learning how to perform the ultrasound procedure and read the images the equipment produces as it relates to pregnancy.

In ultrasound technologist school programs there are often many training sessions with ultrasound equipment so you become familiar with how to handle the equipment in order to receive clear and accurate readings. Students also complete outside clinical training and work. This clinical experience provides a hands-on opportunity at working in an actual health care facility under the supervision of experienced employees.

The most common course of education for ultrasonographers is a two-year associate’s degree, which is what most employers prefer technicians to have. There are four-year bachelor’s degrees available from colleges and universities, too. Additionally, those already active in the medical field, such as a registered nurse, can choose to complete a shorter one-year certification program to operate ultrasound equipment and perform the correlating procedures. One-year certifications are not accredited, though typically RNs that complete the training are still allowed to practice due to their previous nursing experience.

In addition to the educational degree, employers also prefer applicants who are registered with one of three recognized medical diagnostic sonography organizations, including the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS), Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (SDMS) and the Cardiovascular Credentialing International. Employers prefer this because these organizations require that program graduates pass an additional examination before they can be registered as official ultrasound technicians. The exams are only offered to graduates of accredited ultrasound programs. Those who pass the exam are then thought as well versed and completely trained, skilled, and knowledgeable in the ultrasound field.

Specializations Available at Ultrasound Technologist Schools

When you go to ultrasound technologist school you can specialize in an area of ultrasound technology. Specializations exist in obstetric and gynecologic sonography (images of the female reproductive system), abdominal sonography (images of the liver, kidneys, gallbladder, spleen, and pancreas), neurosonography (images of the brain and other parts of the nervous system), or breast sonography. There’s also vascular sonography or cardiac sonography that ultrasound technologists can specialize in, too. The following is a more detailed outline of these individual specializations:

  • Obstetric and Gynecologic Sonography: This is taking ultrasound images of the female reproductive system. This is one of the most well-known uses of sonography to the general public, and it’s the most typical job a sonographer does. The main purpose of this type of ultrasound is examining the fetus inside a pregnant woman to track the baby’s growth and health.
  • Abdominal Sonography: This type of sonography looks at a patient’s abdominal cavity to help diagnose and treat conditions involving the gallbladder, bile ducts, kidneys, liver, pancreas, spleen, and male reproductive systems. As an abdominal ultrasound technologist you will have the skills to scan parts of a patient’s chest and heart, much like the work of echocardiographers.
  • Neurosonography: This type of sonography focuses on the nervous system, including the brain. There is a variety of uses for neurosonography. In neonatal care, neurosonographers study and diagnose neurological and nervous system disorders in premature infants. As a neurosonographer, you’ll operate transducers to perform the sonogram. Yet you need specialized training because you’ll use frequencies and beam shapes different from those used by obstetric and abdominal sonographers.
  • Breast Sonography: This is a type of sonography that utilizes mammography technology to study breasts. The most common use of mammograms is to detect breast cancer. Breast sonography also is used to track tumors, monitor blood supply conditions, and assist in the accurate biopsy of breast tissue. As a breast sonographer you’ll use high-frequency transducers made exclusively to study breast tissue.

To move up in the field, you can seek training in other fields of medical sonography. For example, an obstetric sonography could also train in abdominal sonography to increase marketability.

What is Ultrasound Technologist Certification?

After completing an accredited ultrasound technologist school program, you must get certified in the area of ultrasound technology that you wish to work in. The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) is the most popular examining board that ultrasonographers use for certification. The ARDMS is a standard that most healthcare institutions hold when considering new ultrasound technician applications. Sonography registration provides an objective measure of an individual’s professional standing.

To become registered for ultrasound technician certification, you must first complete the proper education, training, or work experience. You must first pass a generic physics and instrumentation exam, as well as a more specialized examination that focuses on your specialization. There is also a required number of continuing-education hours a sonographer must maintain for registration and certification.

According to The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) certifies each person who passes the exam as a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer (RDMS). This credential can be obtained for several specialty areas like the abdomen, breast, or nervous system. The ARDMS also credentials cardiac and vascular sonographers. The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists offers credentials in breast and vascular sonography. The Cardiovascular Credentialing International credentials cardiac sonographers.

Where do Ultrasound Technicians Work?

As an ultrasound technician you can work in a variety of settings. Typically you’ll be in a healthcare facility, such as a hospital, physician’s office, clinic, medical laboratory, diagnostic laboratory, mobile imaging unit, or specialized healthcare center. Over half of all ultrasound technicians work in hospitals. Even veterinary clinics need ultrasound technicians due to the advancement of ultrasound equipment technology. Today there are over 200 board-certified veterinary radiologists, which includes ultrasound technicians.

Typically where you work as an ultrasound technician directly correlates with your field of specialty. Your specialty may be in echocardiography, relating to heart health; gastroenterology, examining the solid organs in the abdomen; neurology, dealing with the brain and spinal cord; ophthalmology, using sonar to examine the eyes; obstetrics, correlating with female reproductive health; and musculoskeletal sonography, looking at the tendons, muscles, and bones. For example, if you choose to specialize in neurology than you’ll probably work in a hospital or medical laboratory. If you specialize in obstetrics you could work in a hospital, physician’s office, or a mobile imaging unit. Mobile imaging units are large trucks that carry equipment like MRI and ultrasound machines. They travel from hospital to hospital, providing patients in rural areas with the chance to use advanced medical technology tools.

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