How to Get a Job as a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
There are a host of programs that can train sonographers, although experts say employers are looking for graduates of accredited programs who’ve had vital experience in a clinical setting. "An accredited program is the way you'd like to go," says Joy Guthrie, the ultrasound supervisor and sonography program director at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno, Calif. "It's by far my strongest recommendation." She says other programs, including vocational schools, offer sonography training but don’t have the same clinical requirements that set students up to pass the ARDMS certification and provide much-needed hands-on training. "It's hard to get entry into a practice without passing the exam," she says. She also recommends staying abreast of the latest changes in sonography technology, since the field and its applications are still evolving, and says an ability to adapt to those changes will be key. "It takes a lot of critical thinking to recognize pathology and take the appropriate pictures when you see it," Guthrie says.
What is the Job Like?
The job does have a physical component, since you'll need to push or pull a 50-pound machine around a hospital, or help patients on and off examination tables. Sonographers see at least eight to 10 patients per day, and that number can be higher at high-volume practices. Good communication skills matter as well, since you'll work closely with the interpreting physicians, relationships Guthrie says are key to the job. "Interpreting physicians respect the level of education you have as a sonographer ... because you actually create the image and it's very operator-dependent. They rely very heavily on those findings. With that comes a great deal of mutual respect ... and responsibility."