By Andrew T. Colucci, MD
In the field of radiology, physician radiologist utilized many types of imaging equipment to virtually “see” inside the bodies or patients, to help diagnose and treat a variety of medical illnesses. Medical sonographers, like other radiologic technologists, aid physician radiologists by utilizing the sound waves generated by ultrasound machines to acquire images of internal anatomic structures. In doing so, medical sonographers are often on the “front line”, directly laying their hands and the ultrasound probe on the patient to generate the images, often before the radiologist has even seen the patient. Many find this aspect of the job extremely rewarding, amongst the various other benefits that it entails.
The Training Pathway to Become a Radiologic Technologist:
- High School. As with accessing any career within the allied health professions, the first step is the successful completion of high school, or acquiring its GED equivalent. For students who are already aware of their future intentions to pursing a career in ultrasonography, he or she can take high school classes in topics such as anatomy and physics that will help create a foundation for one’s future career.
- Obtaining an A.A. in Diagnostic Medical Sonography. Following the completion of high school (or GED), one must apply to, and gain acceptance into, an Associate’s degree program in Diagnostic Medical Sonography. These two-year degree programs are very focused, and emphasize topics such as proper ultrasound technique, anatomy, imaging techniques, common abnormities, and patient care. To ensure optimum career mobility and a high quality education, applicants should opt to enroll on at programs accredited by both the Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (JRC-DMS), and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP).
- Clinical Requirements. While enrolled in the 2-year Associate’s degree program for diagnostic medical sonography, many students will be required to complete and document a significant number of hours performing hands-on ultrasonography. These experiences are often performed at a variety of rotating clinical sites, such as medical clinics and hospitals. In addition to fulfilling the requirements to become certified, these experiences also provide students with the practical knowledge required to competently perform in their future careers.
- Become Certified. As with other forms of radiologic technologists, medical sonographers must sit for and pass a certification examination administrates by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists. Following the successful completion of this exam, one can finally become a fully certified diagnostic medical sonographer.
- Apply for a Job. After a medical sonographer is certified, he or she is now able to apply for full-time employment, typically in settings such as hospitals or outpatient imaging centers.
Andrew T. Colucci, MD isa senior radiology resident at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, MA, and a Clinical Instructor of Radiology at Harvard Medical School. He is a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society, and a graduate from Boston University School of Medicine and Boston College. His professional interests are quite varied, and include clinical research, medical education, healthcare economics, and health policy.