Diagnostic medical sonographers, also known as ultrasonographers, use medical ultrasound equipment to produce and interpret images of internal structures (tissue, organs, or blood flow). This data is used by physicians to diagnose illness or to monitor fetal development.
Sonographic specialties include: obstetric and gynecologic sonography, abdominal sonography, neurosonography, or ophthalmologic sonography. Sonographers may also specialize in vascular technology or echocardiography.
According to the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers, the work of a sonographer involves not only using specialized equipment, but also communicating effectively and compassionately with patients who range from the healthy to the very ill.
Duties of the sonographer include
- obtaining patient history
- performing the ultrasound
- analyzing the images
- detemining whether or not to extend the scope of the procedure
- providing an oral or written summary of the ultrasound findings to the physician
Most medical sonographers work in hospitals or health care facilities, usually in darkened rooms, but sometimes at patient bedsides. Full-time sonographers work about 40 hours a week. Hospital-based sonographers may have evening and weekend hours and times when they are on call and must be ready to report to work on short notice.
Education and Training
Sonographers can hold anything from a high school diploma to a bachelor's degree. However, 2-year programs resulting in an associate's degree are the most prevalent. According to the BLS the Commission on Accreditation for Allied Health Education Programs has over 150 formal training programs.
There is currently no state mandated certification; however, sonographers can increase their marketability by registering with the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS), which requires passing a general physics and instrumentation examination, in addition to passing an exam in a specialty such as obstetric and gynecologic sonography.
For more information about sonographers, visit The Bureau of Labor Statistics.