A diagnostic medical sonographer, or ultrasound technician, is a person who uses ultrasound machines to view and interpret images with sound waves for the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. One of the most common uses for ultrasound testing is in the field of obstetrics to view the developing fetus for signs of any abnormal conditions and to determine a closer approximation of the age of the fetus. Diagnostic medical sonographer job duties are varied.
The principal job duty of the diagnostic medical sonographer is to perform accurate ultrasound tests of a particular area of the body, based on a physician's order. The sonographer then directs high-frequency sound waves to the desired area of the patient's body via the ultrasound equipment to create a clear image of the area for analysis and diagnostic purposes. The diagnostic sonographer will perform ultrasound tests many times throughout a typical day.
The diagnostic medical sonographer then analyzes the test result from the ultrasound equipment. Calculations and measurements of the images are performed and presented to the physician for a diagnosis and treatment plan.
Obstetrics and gynecology use ultrasound testing to view the fetus in the womb to determine size, weight and/or gender, along with any potential problems with the fetus. The sonographer uses ultrasound to test for any problems within the uterus, cervix or vaginal canal. Images of small tumors, cysts or any other diseases can be determined at an earlier stage.
Diagnostic medical sonographers perform ultrasound tests of the heart and cardiovascular system to detect blockage of the arteries, veins or heart. By viewing the image, the diagnostic sonographer can aid the physician in discovering any damage from a previous heart attack, current problems--such as the heart pumping too weakly or pumping too hard--and to determine if surgery is needed.
During emergency situations, a diagnostic medical sonographer uses ultrasound to determine any injuries inside the body. Examples are appendicitis, ruptured spleen, collapsed lungs, lacerated liver, brain damage and shattered bones. Diagnostic medical sonographers who work in an emergency room are extremely busy some days and less busy on other days as opposed to steady testing in an office setting.
Routine Daily Duties
In addition to the main job duty of testing, a diagnostic medical sonographer's routine job duties are to maintain daily logs of patients seen, take care of billing procedures and perform routine maintenance of machines. Safety and sanitary procedures are performed after each test on the equipment, and maintaining adequate supplies are part of a routine day. Consultations with physicians and supervisors are done daily, as well.
Education and Considerations
Employers prefer to hire medical sonographers with 2 to 4 years in a sonography program at an accredited college or university. A bachelor's degree or an associate degree can be obtained. Alternatively, some hospitals and testing centers have training programs for individuals who have been hired into the sonography department. It is important to your career to be registered with the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS). Continuing education is also required on an ongoing basis. Since sonography techniques are not harmful to the body like radiation, this field has less-harmful side effects and is therefore a growing field to work in. Median starting salary for a diagnostic medical sonographer is approximately $40,000 to $70,000, depending on qualifications, area of specialty and region.
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