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What does an Ultrasound Technologist do?

By Cassie L. Damewood
Updated May 17, 2024
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An ultrasound technologist, often referred to as a sonographer or ultrasonographer, operates a sonogram machine to record images of a patient’s internal organs. She may specialize in vascular sonograms, echocardiography, or abdominal, breast, gynecological or obstetrics sonography. These pictures are normally used to identify developing fetuses, organs that appear to be malfunctioning or to aid in the diagnosis of diseases. This job is typically performed in a hospital or clinic, but may also be done in a doctor’s office or laboratory.

The sonograph is different from an X-ray in that it does not use radiation to generate a picture. Instead, the sonograph is produced by sound waves that are aimed at the area in question by the technologist. When the waves bounce back—like echoes—a clear image develops. This image can be photographed, videotaped or electronically transmitted for use in the physician’s diagnosis or review.

Prior to performing the test, the ultrasound technologist traditionally records the patient’s medical history. She then explains the procedure to the patient and answers any questions that may arise. To get the best possible image, the technologist normally positions the patient to get a clear shot of the area to be examined.

After she selects the appropriate sonogram equipment for the task, she sets the controls and adjusts the transducer levels. The patient’s vital statistics are then commonly entered into a computer attached to the sonogram machine. As the technologist passes the transducer wand over the area to be photographed, an image of the internal organs appears on the computer monitor. The facts and details relevant to the diagnosis are automatically recorded by the device.

Once a clear image is generated, the technologist typically records the data on the patient’s chart. She usually saves or prints it and passes it along to the patient’s physician. If she is authorized to do so, the ultrasound technologist may analyze the sonogram and assess the results for the physician.

Good attention to detail is generally required to achieve success in this position. Warm and soothing interpersonal communication skills are normally considered assets for an ultrasound technologist. Familiarity with electronic equipment is considered a plus for those who aspire to this position.

An ultrasound technologist position generally requires either an associate’s degree or bachelor’s degree in sonography. This educational requirement varies by region and at different health-care facilities. Certificate programs in sonography are sometimes offered at vocational or technical schools. Professional organizations also frequently offer licenses to qualified ultrasound technologists.

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