Diagnostic Medical Sonographers are ultrasound professionals, qualified through professional credentials and clinical experience, who offer patients diagnostic imaging services. Most people think of pregnancies when they consider sonography, but their duties go far beyond just one aspect in diagnostic imaging. Diagnostic imaging involves sound waves that are used to generate images which allow assessment and diagnosis of different medical conditions.
These sound waves are what allow a fetus to be seen in the womb. This technology, however, is used in other diagnostics and treatments of diseases of the heart and blood vessels, abdomen, and breast. Diagnostic imaging is also vital in diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal problems and in the monitoring of brain hemorrhaging and lung development in premature infants.
Diagnostic imaging is one of the many advancements that help healthcare professionals identify what could be going on underneath the surface, and determine whether or not more invasive procedures need to be undertaken to assist a patient.
There are plenty of different ultrasound and diagnostic medical sonography specializations that healthcare professionals in this career can pursue. This means that at any one point, a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer doesn't have to feel like they're stuck only doing one thing for the rest of their career.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers have the option of pursuing ten different career specializations: Breast Sonographer, Neurosonographer, Abdominal Sonographer, Cardiac Sonographer, Vascular Sonographer, Obstetric and Gynecologic Sonographer, Fetal Echocardiographer, Pediatric Echocardiographer, and Adult Echocardiographer. We're going to detail what each of these specializations is, to see if you might be interested in potentially pursuing one of them.
• Breast Sonographer — The Diagnostic Medical Sonographers who specialize in Breast Sonography will focus heavily on the screening, detection, and monitoring of diseases and ailments with breasts. Conducting a breast ultrasound is a necessary step to determine whether or not a patient has breast cancer, and is a routine part of the mammogram cancer screenings.
Ultrasound professionals Diagnostic Medical Sonographers will use diagnostic imaging techniques to take comprehensive images of all areas of a patient's breast to see if there are any cancerous images. Ultrasound technicians also use medical imaging techniques to differentiate different cysts with fluid from hard masses.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers who assist patients with breast ultrasound imaging services will help reduce the need for invasive biopsies and other complicated procedures to determine if a patient has breast cancer.
• Neurosonographer — Diagnostic Medical Sonographers who work as a Neurosonographer work to provide medical imaging services that specialize in providing images of a patient's nervous system. Patients might be suffering from various ailments or issues that affect their brain or spinal cord. These images help identify potential neurological issues that a patient could be suffering from and also help healthcare professionals research and study blood flow through a patient's blood vessels in their nervous system.
Another part of a Neurosonographer's job description involves imaging a patient to determine whether or not they have any central nervous system disorders including herniated discs, compressed vertebrae, multiple sclerosis, and more.
Neurosonographers are vital to evaluating patients to determine whether or not they have high probabilities of potentially life-threatening conditions as well. For instance, an early detection scan might provide ample warning on whether or not a patient has a higher likelihood of getting an aneurysm or suffering from a stroke.
• Abdominal Sonographer — The next specialization for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers to consider is becoming an Abdominal Sonographer. Abdominal Sonographers are Diagnostic Medical Sonographers who perform ultrasounds on the abdomens on patients to determine if there are any soft tissue issues, blood vessel concerns, or organs that could be damaged.
In addition, Abdominal Sonographers might be tasked with evaluating a patient's pancreas, gallbladder, spleen, male reproductive organs, or kidneys. Abdominal Sonographers are also tasked with seeking out different blockages in a patient's veins, arteries, or somewhere else in their abdomen. One of the unique things about working as an Abdominal Sonographer is that they can help provide real-time visual guidance of a patient's blood flow, movement of internal organs, bowel movement, and more.
Abdominal Sonographers are used in a variety of scenarios where it might be more important to evaluate a patient in a non-invasive way to investigate potential swelling concerns or pain that the patient is relaying.
• Cardiac Sonographer — The next specialization for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers to consider is Echocardiography, as they can become a Cardiac Sonographer. Echocardiography is the practice in which a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer will evaluate the structure and blood flow functionality in a patient's heart. This process involves checking to determine the proper function and flow of a patient's cardiovascular system.
Cardiac Sonographers become increasingly important in a patient's lifetime as they age and begin to experience different conditions throughout their life.
• Fetal Echocardiographer — The next specialization that Diagnostic Medical Sonographers can choose to pursue is Fetal Echocardiography. Fetal Echocardiographers are those sonographers who attempt to screen and identify medical conditions and factors that are consistent throughout a patient's family medical history, and how those conditions might impact the growth and development of the fetus.
Quickly identifying the problems and ailments that a fetus might have early on in the development process means that healthcare professionals have more time to evaluate whether or not surgical intervention is necessary, or what types of procedures and complications might arise after the birth of the baby.
Identifying these problems is essential to ensure that a baby has all the chances and resources they need to have a healthy life and survive well after birth. One of the most frequent procedures that a Fetal Echocardiographer might perform is an ultrasound on a baby's heart to determine if there are any abnormal heart structures.
Abnormal heart structures might mean an irregular blood flow or heart volume production for the patient, which can lead to drastic health concerns and lack of an ability to grow properly. For those healthcare professionals or students who are passionate about working with expectant mothers, this is the career specialization you should focus on when becoming a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer.
• Pediatric Echocardiographer — The next specialization possibility for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers is to become a Pediatric Echocardiographer. Similar to a Fetal Echocardiographer, Pediatric Echocardiographers are focused on providing diagnostic medical imaging services to children. Some of the services that might be provided include checking a patient's heart and blood vessels to make sure there aren't any shortcomings or medical conditions that the patient or the patient's family member should be concerned about.
Pediatric Echocardiographers are also used frequently throughout a child's early development years to track existing conditions and keep relevant and immediate healthcare professionals apprised of how a patient is developing, how their genetic conditions are being maintained and much more.
This is all designed to ensure that a patient has the monitoring they need to live a healthy life or have intervention when necessary. For those healthcare professionals or job seekers who enjoy working with young children, this is the specialization for Diagnostic Medical Sonography that you should pursue.
• Adult Echochardiographer — Another specialization for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers to consider is Adult Echocardiography. Adult Echocardiographers are those diagnostic medical imagers who help provide ultrasound scans on patients who need to evaluate the size, functionality, and shape of a patient's heart and cardiovascular system in their adult age.
These scans are essential for those patients who have begun to experience some coronary issues or wish to take preventive measures for generational heart concerns in their family line.
Some of the most common procedures for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers who work in this specialization focus on performing ultrasounds around the chest and upper abdomen. In some cases, a probe might need to be sent down the esophagus to get better imaging. Another common procedure that might be performed are stress tests and treadmill studies to identify potential blood flow and production capacity.
Musculoskeletal Sonographer — The next specialization and career to consider for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers is to become a Musculoskeletal Sonographer. While many of the medical imaging specializations we've highlighted earlier have focused on medical imaging for cardiovascular systems or organs, a Musculoskeletal Sonographer focuses on the joints, ligaments, tendons, and soft tissues for the patients.
Providing ultrasound services to a patient who might be suffering from an injury is a necessary step to identify if a patient has some ligament or abnormalities in their musculoskeletal structure.
Patients might suffer from a variety of conditions and ailments that require them to seek an ultrasound, such as athletic injuries, tendon tears, muscle tears, buildup of fluid in muscles or ligaments, soft tissue irritation, or onset of arthritis symptoms.
Ophthalmologic Sonographer — The last specialization that Diagnostic Medical Sonographers should consider for their career is to become an Ophthalmologic Sonographer. These diagnostic medical imagers focus on providing different images around the orbital bones, orbital structures, eyes, and orbital muscles. Essentially, this specialization is designed around identifying potential eye conditions that a patient could be suffering, and early detection of future ailments.
The complicated part of this specialization is that there are several different imaging methods that could be used for a patient, and the Ophthalmologic Sonographer has to know which imaging method is best for which type of disease and condition they are trying to detect. Some of the most common procedures that an Ophthalmologic Sonographer could conduct include checking to see the thickness of the eye, curvature, size, and blood flow to the eye.
To learn more about the responsibilities that a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer has, continue reading below.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers work with patients from the moment they enter the hospital's ultrasound department. Diagnostic Medical Sonographers inquire and communicate with them about their reason for being there and determine the proper course of action. Often times Diagnostic Medical Sonographers are used as the front-line resource for identifying what a patient might be suffering from.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers are also tasked with identifying what they can and cannot do in terms of identifying the patient's ailment through a medical imaging device. In some cases, they might realize that they need to pass it along to a specialized sonographer who can provide more comprehensive images.
Before that decision is made though, Diagnostic Medical Sonographers have a wide array and host of responsibilities that they are responsible for.
The first core responsibility for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers is to use high frequency sound waves that create images of a patient's internal body parts. This is arguably the most important responsibility that Diagnostic Medical Sonographers have, because they are in charge of getting as much information as they can to assist other healthcare professionals and Physicians with diagnosing and making accurate decisions in regards to a patient's future care plan.
The second important responsibility that Diagnostic Medical Sonographers have is to assist with emergency room evaluations.
As we highlighted earlier, the medical imaging that Diagnostic Medical Sonographers provide give ER professionals enough information to act quickly and efficiently when a patient's life is on the line. For those patients who have a little bit of a longer wait time, they can rest assured knowing that they will get an accurate diagnosis for their ailment by going to the ER as well.
The most common responsibility that Diagnostic Medical Sonographers will have is to perform ultrasounds for patients, to provide medical imaging diagnostics on unborn fetuses. These medical imaging services are an essential part of making sure that the baby is developing normally and there are no concerns that should alert a healthcare professional or the parents as to the baby's natural development. Part of this process also involves working with OB/GYN doctors to assist them wherever they might need some help.
The next core responsibility for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers is to help other healthcare professionals in interpreting the actual images they've gathered. A Diagnostic Medical Sonographer needs to do this in real-time to ensure that they have the accurate pictures needed to give healthcare professionals the resources they need to make an accurate diagnosis.
In addition, this process ensures that relevant healthcare professionals and Physicians can look back at it whenever they need to consult the photos once again with the patient and explain their reasoning behind the diagnosis and treatment plan.
The second part of this process involves making sure that the images they've gathered are of solid quality that they can actually depict and showcase what they were looking for. If the quality of the picture isn't good enough, then Diagnostic Medical Sonographers quickly need to identify why that might be and correct it. Sometimes the medical imaging device is the issue, a mistake in the imaging procedure, a patient movement, etc.
The next part involved in this process is to assist healthcare professionals by creating initial reports that they can then gleam information from. These preliminary reports are essential for assisting healthcare professionals in understanding what they are looking at. While a Physician or relevant healthcare professional might know right off the bat what they're looking at, a quick summary of what the photo is or what they might be looking at can speed up the process.
Another important responsibility for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers is to determine the extent of an internal injury through their medical imaging devices. It's important to provide all relevant healthcare professionals with all the images they need to make an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan, and they can only do that if they understand just how severe a potential injury is. It's one thing to identify a wounded area, but there are several complications that can arise if the wounded area has caused complications elsewhere.
The next piece of responsibility for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers is to keep daily patient logs. Keeping a daily patient log is essential in the healthcare industry to track what procedures a patient has had done, any comments or concerns, in addition to tracking the healthcare professional themselves.
In the event of a potential lawsuit, these patient logs help to ensure that the healthcare professional has clearly dictated what they've done and their reason for doing so, to protect them against any potential lawsuit that might arise.
The next core responsibility for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers is to maintain and keep their equipment up to date. As we've highlighted earlier, keeping equipment well-maintained is essential to performing their duties properly and ensuring that they get accurate images.
One important consideration that all potential Diagnostic Medical Sonographers need to be aware of, is that they're responsible for performing in dimly-lit rooms with machines, or with a patient by their bedside. Some job seekers or students don't want to directly work with a patient or work in dimly-lit rooms because it makes them uncomfortable, but it's one of the important responsibilities that all potential Diagnostic Medical Sonographers need to be aware of.
Another important responsibility for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers is to communicate and coordinate effectively with other healthcare professionals. Working in the healthcare industry is a team-oriented process, and Diagnostic Medical Sonographers need to be comfortable interacting with others.
In some cases, a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer will also be called upon to perform various administrative and clerical tasks. This might include cleaning up the medical imaging services department, maintaining the stock of supplies, or coordinating directly with patients. Sometimes a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer might be tasked with working directly with the patient to come up with a schedule that allows them to receive their medical imaging services.
In addition, Diagnostic Medical Sonographers will assist patients in preparing themselves for the procedures. Part of this process revolves around educating them about the procedure and helping them answer any questions that they might have.
The next key responsibility that Diagnostic Medical Sonographers have is to stay up to date on all the recent trends, advancements, and innovations in the medical imaging industry. Part of this process involves staying up to date on continuing education credits, attending workshops, and attending training seminars.
In addition, experienced Diagnostic Medical Sonographers will be asked to share their knowledge and assist their co-workers in the medical imaging department with learning new tips, techniques, skills, and the proper procedure on how to operate the equipment when necessary.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers also have plenty of opportunity to go to high schools, local community colleges, or universities to share their knowledge, excitement, and passion for the industry. This is a great way to drive people into the career or healthcare industry.
Another way in which a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer might be responsible for pushing the industry forward is by assisting engineers or medical device designers with advice or recommendations on ways to properly improve the equipment. Diagnostic Medical Sonographers can provide some key insight into ways to advance the equipment and ultimately increase the likelihood of an accurate diagnosis while speeding up the process.
Sonographers are responsible for employing all forms of imaging, not only ultrasound, including MRI, x-ray, CAT scans and nuclear medicine. They are also ultimately responsible for the day-to-day operations of the sonographic laboratory, maintenance of sonographic equipment, maintaining patient schedules, quality assessments, and working to ensure the laboratory accreditation is upheld.
For those individuals who are passionate about potentially pursuing a career as a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, a look into the daily and common activities will help provide some more information as to whether or not this is a career that you'd truly enjoy. We've outlined some of the most common activities on the job for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers.
• Perform Medical Imaging Diagnostics
The most common activity that Diagnostic Medical Sonographers will have to do each day is to perform various medical imaging diagnostics that we've outlined above. The medical imaging services provided will largely depend upon the specialization or role that they assume.
• Interact and Use Medical Devices and Equipment
The next common activity for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers is to interact with and use a variety of medical devices and equipment. Whether it's the medical imaging tools or a record-keeping system, Diagnostic Medical Sonographers should expect use them quite frequently.
• Record Information
Another common activity for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers is the process of recording and keeping accurate information. This information will most often relate to the patient's medical imaging tests, and procedures done. This will also involve making sure that the images have appropriate documentation and write-ups so other healthcare professionals understand what they're looking at quickly and efficiently.
• Assist and Care For Patients
Arguably the most important activity that Diagnostic Medical Sonographers will do each day is to assist and care for patients. The patients are the lifeblood of the healthcare industry, and Diagnostic Medical Sonographers should be prepared to go above and beyond to make sure that they're comfortable and have a clear understanding of the procedures that they're receiving.
• Communicate with Healthcare Professionals
The next thing that healthcare professionals are in charge of is communicating and working together with other healthcare professionals. Working in the healthcare industry is a collaborative environment, and Diagnostic Medical Sonographers should expect to work in conjunction with other healthcare professionals on a daily basis.
• Use Relevant Industry Knowledge
Another common activity on the job for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers on the job is to use relevant industry knowledge. The healthcare industry is constantly changing, and Diagnostic Medical Sonographers should be prepared to learn on the fly each day and implement the knowledge and experience they've gained over time throughout their education and professional background.
Diagnostic medical sonographers must be able to effectively operate and maintain sonographic equipment, evaluate sonograms, and integrate laboratory results, patient histories, and medical records to come to an accurate diagnosis.
Sonographers must be able to independently find the problems they're searching for and clearly communicate any findings to the attending physician or team of health care professionals.
They should also aim to forge strong connections with their team and patients and act quickly in emergency situations.
Diagnostic medical sonographers work a 35 - 40 hour work week, with most averaging around 37 total. They typically work in the Ultrasound Department of the hospital they're employed with and face-to-face with patients, gathering histories and working to diagnose ailments.
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