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What Do Ultrasound Technicians Do?

If you are unemployed, stuck in a dead-end job, or just want to make a difference in someone’s life, then pursuing a career as an ultrasound technician will provide you with a nice change of pace. This fast growing medical career offers people the opportunity to save lives, make money, and secure their futures.

Ultrasound Tech – Job Description

ultrasound techAs an ultrasound technician, you will use specialized equipment called a transducer to display images of the inside of the body. The transducer works similar to the echolocation techniques used by dolphins, bats, and whales to navigate around structures. The waves bounce off the internal structures of the body and return to the transducer which translates the information into images and sound that can be displayed on screen or recorded.

In addition to operating and maintaining the machine, it will be your job to interpret those images. You will need to distinguish normal body structures from abnormal ones. For example, breast sonographers must be able to differentiate between cancerous growths and normal breast tissues. This information will assist the primary healthcare provider in the diagnosis of various medical conditions including pregnancy.

You will also be required to maintain patient records and accurately report the results of each sonogram conducted. Doctors may need you to provide oral or written summaries of patients’ diagnostic images and you will frequently be called upon to interpret technical data related to sonography. Good communication skills are a must because you will also need to explain to patients what you are doing and talk to them about the results of the sonogram.

Other responsibilities may include scheduling appointments, archiving images, managing other sonographers, and administrative duties.

Specialties

Your ultrasound technician duties will vary according to your specialty if you choose to pursue one. Although there are four major specialties that most sonographers get into, the number of areas where you can specialize continues to grow as the industry matures. The main areas of specialization are:

  • Obsteric and gynecology sonography – If you have ever had a baby then you have probably worked with a sonographer in this field. In addition to using a transducer to track fetal growth and development, ultrasound technicians use the technology for examining the female reproductive system to assist in diagnosing gynecological problems like cysts or uterine cancer.
  • Breast sonography – Using a transducer created specifically to take images of breast tissue, sonographers track abnormal growths, monitor the blood supply, and assist with biopsies.
  • Neurosonography – Sonographers in this field study the nervous systems and brains of people of every age including infants. While they use the same equipment as an obstetric and gynecology sonographers, the frequencies and beam shapes are different.
  • Abdominal sonography – Your job will be to take scans of internal organs in the abdominal area including the pancreas, spleen, kidneys, gallbladder, and bile ducts. The male reproductive system also falls under this specialty. Scans of the heart are usually conducted by an echocardiographer.

Other specialties you can get into echocardiography (heart scans), vascular technology (scans of the vascular system), ophthalmology (eye scans), and musculoskeletal (scans of the joints and muscles).

Work Environment for an Ultrasound Technician

Most ultrasound technicians work in hospitals and medical facilities. However, job opportunities are growing fastest in physician offices and diagnostic laboratories. Ultrasound technicians may work in a specific room set aside for diagnostic sonography, but they may also do sonograms at a patients’ bedside using a mobile imaging device. Sonographers need to be capable of standing on their feet most or all of their work day and be strong enough to lift and turn disabled patients.

The average work week for an ultrasound technician is 40 hours which can include evenings and weekends. Some sonographers work overtime according to their employers’ needs. You may be placed on-call or called in to work on short notice. Overtime, on-call, and call-in work are all paid at higher hourly rates. The average hourly rate for ultrasound technicians is $29 per hour. In 2008, the average yearly income for people in this profession was $61,980 with the top and lower 10% making $83,950 and $43,600 respectively.

Like many medical professions, ultrasound technicians enjoy a certain amount of job security. More and more hospitals are focusing on increasing outpatient care as a way of saving money. The job opportunities in this field are expected to grow by 18% by 2018. In a little over two years you can start a career in this dynamic field, so don’t wait to change your life. Look for an accredited school and start your new career path today.

 

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