Medical ultrasonography refers to the use of high-frequency sound waves to produce images of specific organs and internal human body structures for diagnostic purposes. An ultrasonographer is also called a sonographer or sonographic technician, someone who operates specialized equipment and performs the ultrasound procedure. Duties include preparing the patient for ultrasound, equipment up-keep, and providing a preliminary analysis to doctors. While ultrasounds are done in countries all over the world, there are differences in who is allowed to perform them and the training requirements. For example outside of the U.S., United Kingdom, and Australia, as well as Japan, Canada, and New Zealand, ultrasonography is handled strictly by licensed doctors. Few countries other than these have established training and certification guidelines to become an ultrasonographer.
Training is necessary to become an ultrasonographer, which is provided by many vocational schools, hospitals, and colleges. Ranging in duration from approximately one to four years, ultrasonographer training programs require that applicants have a high school diploma and valid certification in basic life support (BLS) as well as completion of certain prerequisite courses such as anatomy, physiology, and mathematics. Ultrasonographer training is nearly identical to the type that physicians and medical students receive, except that doctors cover diagnosis and interpretation of results. A typical course of study includes examinations of various regions of the body such as the pelvis, and specific instruction for pregnancy, infection control, and ethics.
Even though licensing is not a requirement as of 2011, to become an ultrasonographer, you should also consider completing specialty education and obtaining certification by a credible organization such as the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) or the Australasian Sonographer Accreditation Registry (ASAR). Organizations such as these offer a type of national or regional certification, qualifying applicants based upon eligibility and passing an examination. Eligibility is determined differently by individual agencies and generally includes completion of a specified number of training or experienced working hours in certain areas. Specializations may also be certified by completing additional training in a particular area of the body, such as in heart, eye, or blood vessel ultrasonography.
When people think of uses for ultrasound technology, they typically associate it with viewing a fetus in utero, but there are also many clinical applications. Doctors perform ultrasound procedures as part of amniocentesis, the removal of amniotic fluid for purposes of genetic testing during pregnancy. Musculoskeletal system injuries are also diagnosed with ultrasonography, such as torn ligaments, tendons, and dislocated joints. As new uses of this non-invasive technology are explored, the demand for ultrasonographers will likely increase, which is an great reason to become an ultrasonographer.