What Does an Ultrasound Technician Job Description Entail?

Do you want to work in a field on the cutting edge of technology and patient care? Do you have a desire to help people and be a key player in helping physicians reach accurate, swift diagnoses? If so, a career as an ultrasound technician might be just the job path for you. Ultrasound technicians, also known as sonographers, work in a highly specialized and booming field, that is always in a high demand of gifted, dedicated professionals. The ultrasound technician job description is varied, requiring a succinct combination of real-world office skills and crucial medical knowledge to perform the necessary duties involved.

What Is an Ultrasound Technician?

Overview

The ultrasound technician job description requires individuals in the field to run imaging tests and diagnostics on patients, in order to recognize issues or medical conditions in the organs and surrounding tissue. One of the most commonly thought of aspects of the ultrasound technician job description is in taking diagnostic images throughout a woman’s pregnancy. In reality, this is only a small part of the work that ultrasound technicians perform.

ultrasound image

An ultrasound technician must be trained and ready to complete an array of imaging tests and methodologies, often working solo or at times with a nurse. Ultrasound technicians are responsible for choosing to image tests out of the multitude performed in order for a physician to review and diagnose a patient’s medical condition or observe a pregnancy.

The way ultrasound technology works are in using equipment uniquely geared to move waves of high-frequency sound in the direction of specific parts of the human body. The sound waves are aggregated and transmitted into live images that show inner bodily function and composition.

Job Prospects

The ultrasound technician job description varies slightly based on specialization and work setting, but the fact remains that career prospects for the role are better than ever. The median annual pay comes in at around $64,000 per year.

ultrasound video screen

Ultrasound technicians may work in an array of medical environments, including everything from hospitals to small clinics. Another more recent option involves mobile or traveling ultrasound technicians. Some ultrasound technicians even work on call in addition to their working hours as this is often crucial to meet patient needs. It also serves as a supplement to what, at times, can be irregular working hours. Variant hours are typical in the healthcare industry, and often depend on your working location, but it is a fact to be aware of.

A mobile ultrasound technician can leverage his or her skills and physically take the necessary equipment to a patient’s home or a clinic that is unable to afford the costs of maintaining the technology on site. These types of technicians are also commonly found in hospitals where they deliver equipment to various patient’s rooms who have limited or nonexistent mobility for examinations and tests.

A traveling ultrasound technician often works as a temporary employee at a hospital if the resident technician is on vacation or on leave. There are agencies that use traveling sonographers to work in temporary capacities at a number of hospitals for periods of weeks or months.

Specializations

There are a few different career paths available for ultrasound technicians. The first is the more commonly thought of diagnostic imaging role, which involves taking imaging of the body’s organs and surrounding tissue to identify health issues. If you work in this sector of the field, you can specialize further into the areas of abdominal, pediatric, breast, musculoskeletal, and obstetrics and gynecology imaging.

pregnant woman on ultrasound test

Another career path for an ultrasound technician is found in cardiology. Known more frequently as cardiovascular technologists, this type of role requires you to take images especially related to the heart, its arteries, and veins. These tests could be performed to prepare for catheterization or open-heart surgery, among other surgical procedures.

There are also technicians who focus on images of the heart chambers, known as cardiac sonographers, and cardiovascular invasive specialists who track heart rate and aid physicians with catheterization procedures. Another highly specialized area of the ultrasound technician field is found in vascular sonography, focusing on taking imaging of a patient’s blood vessels to enable a physician to analyze the blood’s health and viscosity.

What Are the Qualifications for Becoming an Ultrasound Technician?

Education

ultrasound tablet and patient

Before delving further into the ultrasound technician job description, it is important to understand what kind of educational qualifications are necessary in the field. To begin with, ultrasound technicians must have at least an associates degree, with an increasing preference placed on individuals with a bachelors degree.

The programs involve 2 to 4 years of coursework and study, with real-world training and practice to learn how to maneuver ultrasound equipment. There is also a heavy emphasis placed on classes teaching subjects like medical terminology, applied sciences, and anatomy.

Certification

The majority of states do not specifically require you to be certified, but employers usually prefer it. It is always a good idea to have as many credentials as possible to attain more career mobility and compensation options. If you choose this route, you will need to make sure that you become certified by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography.

It is always a good idea to touch base with your state’s medical board to see if you have met the necessary requirements to work in your state. You can obtain this certification and register through the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Credentialing International.

In addition, there are several options for certification that you can choose from. In completing and passing the sonography principled and instrumentation exam, you will earn the title of a registered diagnostic medical sonographer. After passing this exam, you can take congruent exams to specialize further within the field in areas such as fetal echocardiography, abdomen, and pediatric sonography.

Other credentials you can opt for which are regularly found in an ultrasound technician job description require you to pass exams certifying you as a registered vascular sonographer, registered musculoskeletal sonographer, and registered diagnostic cardiac sonographer.

Ultrasound Technician Job Description

Breakdown

Now that you have a solid grasp of the varied environments and educational credentials embodying this field, it is time to delve further into the ultrasound technician job description itself. The primary element of the ultrasound technician job description is to maintain standards and attend to a patient’s care and well-being. The majority of patients receive a physician referral to see an ultrasound technician.

As an ultrasound technician, upon first receiving a referral, you will take a look at the patient's situation and discuss any procedural changes that need to be made with the physician. After you have mapped out the entire procedure, it is your job to explain it in succinct and understandable terms to the patient, so he or she knows what kind of imaging is going to be taken. You will also make sure the patient is prepared for the procedure if special requirements are needed, such as maintaining a full bladder to perform imaging on the organ’s function.

Once the patient is briefed and prepped, it is time to start the actual imaging procedure itself. The ultrasound technician job description requires you to examine the results as you conduct the imaging and note the exact locations and times of each image to compile a report for the reviewing physician.

You may also keep the patient up-to-date on the situation, letting them know what images you are taking and what you see as you do. This is especially helpful, as many patients can see the images in real time while you take them, so keeping the lines of communication open establishes a calm and open environment.

After the procedure is finished, the ultrasound technician job description requires you to compile the images into a report for the referring physician, with an in-depth analysis based on the information you gathered. This analysis should note potential and possibly unforeseen end results. The technician might clarify what the results mean with the physician and make recommendations as to the best course of action. The physician makes the ultimate decision for the patient, but an ultrasound technician is allowed to make recommendations as to next steps.

Additional Responsibilities

There are a few key elements of the ultrasound technician job description that bear a careful note of as well. The majority of ultrasounds involve non-invasive, painless procedures. Be that as it may, ultrasound technicians are expected to abide by the same code of ethics and professional conduct as any other medical professional. This is especially important as ultrasound technicians often work alone with the patients and are entirely responsible for their care during the time of the procedure.

baby in mother's tummy

Despite the solo aspects of the ultrasound technician job description, you will still likely be a part of a medical team comprising other technicians and radiology professionals. Conversing and consulting with colleagues to offer the best patient care possible is standard practice.

The ultrasound technician job description also requires you to be willing and able to learn in an on-the-job capacity. Seasoned professionals will often train new technicians, and those new to the job will be receiving in-depth onboarding.

There is a definite administrative aspect to the ultrasound technician job description, as you must frequently compile, update, and maintain patient records. This requires a significant eye for detail and accuracy.

Final Thoughts

The ultrasound technician job description is a varied one, to be sure, as it requires individuals with in-depth knowledge of the human body and specialized education. Ultrasound technicians must have a keen bedside manner and rapport with patients, a strong attention to detail, and the ability to assess procedural results and compile them into succinct, accurate reports for physician use.

The role is ideal for anyone looking for a challenging, yet rewarding, and stable career within the medical field that demonstrates exceptional job potential and opportunities for mobility.

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