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What is a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer?

By Carol Francois
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A diagnostic medical sonographer is responsible for the operation of ultrasonic imaging systems. These systems are used to create scans, videos, 3D anatomy and other images. These images are provided to nurses, doctors and health professionals to aid in diagnosis, treatment and surgical preparation. The diagnostic medical sonographer is an important member of the medical support team. The sonographer is responsible for providing high quality images and using her tools to meet the needs of surgeons, diagnosticians and doctors.

In order to become a diagnostic medical sonographer, you will need a post-secondary education in sonographic education from an accredited program. These programs are highly specialized and provide a combination of theoretical coursework and practical experience. The typical degree is two years in length and is available only at select schools.

The courses in this program require an excellent attention to detail. In the first year, the courses include human biology, communication and medical terminology. In the second year, students can specialize in a particular practice area. There are four types of diagnostic medical sonographer: cardiac, obstetrical, vascular and general. All general sonographers work in either abdominal or gynecological sonography.

Additional course options in the second year include cross-sectional anatomy, pathology, physiology and physics. Verbal communication skills are also very important, as is the ability to empathize and interact with patients. Written reports are mandatory for almost all diagnostic work. Computer and English writing skills are very important, as these reports remain in the patient's file for many years.

Upon completion of the training program, additional examinations are required to obtain professional credentials. The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) and the Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) are the two primary organizations responsible for certification in the United States. The certificates issued by both these organizations are internationally recognized. Most countries have a certification system in place to test the level of knowledge and understanding of all sonographers.

A diagnostic medical sonographer can find employment opportunities in hospitals or diagnostic medical labs. The daily work environment for a sonographer is a darkened room, filled with diagnostic equipment. Some types of sonographers are able to work at patients' bedsides, reducing the need to physically move the patient to obtain the necessary images.

Most sonographers are on their feet all day, with little opportunity to sit. This job has an increased risk of carpel tunnel and other repetitive strain injuries. In addition, sonographers often develop neck, back and eye strain when using older equipment or moving patients. Newer, ergonomic equipment is helping to reduce the frequency of these types of injuries.

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