Your Guide to Getting Proper Ultrasound Training
Proper ultrasound training doesn’t have to be boring, difficult, or complicated. It can be fun, challenging, and straightforward for those with talent and passion. The health industry needs ultrasound specialists, and the first step is training.
Read on for tips and info on finding the right training for you and what to expect. You’ll be on your path towards ultrasound certification in no time.
Find The Right Program
If you plan to become a certified sonographer, you’ll need a school or program that’s reputable. You’ll also need one that offers flexibility and proper accreditation. There are plenty of degree and certification options out there, so you’ll need to find the right one for you.
The first thing is to decide what kind of program you want or need. Degree lengths vary from 1 – 4 years, depending on a number of factors. A 2-year Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree is the most typical, with a median salary north of $70,000.
Your AAS degree will contain a specialization in diagnostic medical sonography. The program will be full-time and intensive but will prepare you for the field. A 12-month certificate program is also available for those already holding healthcare degrees.
A 4-year long Bachelor’s degree is by far the longest route you could take. It usually results in a Bachelor of Science degree with a sonography specialization. The extra length of this program paves the way to more job opportunities but isn’t a requirement.
Any program you pick must have accreditation from the CAAHEP. Short for Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, it’s a must. Finishing a CAAHEP credited program lets you take exams to get further certificates.
These will open doors to higher pay and career advancement.
Choose Online or in Person
The traditional path is to go and attend a physical program. There is nothing quite like getting a hands-on education for your ultrasound training. Accredited schools have knowledgeable instructors, impressive equipment, and an environment tailored for learning.
That said, it’s becoming more popular to get your training or education online. Many ultrasound courses these days offer the ability to do part of your training online.
You can attend virtual conferences, and live lectures, and demonstrations online. These programs allow you to ask pertinent questions in real-time and get full access to the materials you need. You’ll still have to do a hands-on portion in person eventually, but most of the hassle will be gone.
The only important factor, other than your learning preferences and availability, is accreditation. Make sure that any online training you undertake offers CAAHEP or ARDMS certification. Additional ones are available, but those are the big ones.
What To Expect
Regardless of the length of your program, you’ll need to have math, science, and English. Chances are you’re already a medical healthcare worker looking to add certification, so you’re used to this. The process may still feel like a bit of a slog, but the training is exciting, and it all leads to one thing.
Your 6-month internship is the most anticipated part of your ultrasound course. You’ll be under the direct supervision of a certified sonographer who will show you the practical ropes. This is where you’ll be able to translate your skills and training from paper into the real world.
During the internship, you’ll perform ultrasounds and operate all the equipment yourself. You can lean on your supervisor for advice and help, but the goal is to experience the job. At the end of your six months, you’ll take a certification exam, likely the ARDMS exam.
What You Need
ARDMS stands for American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography. It’s considered the gold standard and usually follows a CAAHEP accredited program. There are others like ARRT and CCI, but ARDMS is the one most employers look for.
ARRT stands for American Registry for Radiologic Technologists. CCI is Cardiovascular Credential International. The more certifications you have, the better your job prospects and salary will be.
Only a few states legally require ARDMS certification. That said you’ll be hard-pressed to find any company that doesn’t make it mandatory out of their own choice. Any training you get, no matter how complete, won’t matter if you don’t get these certifications.
Thus it’s important that your program prepares you for your certification exams. You’ll need to study hard, get into a program with proper accreditation (like CAAHEP), and pass your ARDMS exams (or equivalent). You’ll also need to choose a specialty from among the big 5, as many states require it.
Choose A Specialty
There are 5 main specialties when it comes to the medical profession of sonography. These are abdominal, gynecologic, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, and small parts. Your training will likely require you to pick one of these to specialize in, so choose well.
Gynecologic and Obstetric Sonography are the ones most people associate with ultrasounds. Obstetric refers to the one during pregnancy that determines gender and tracks health. Since you’ll be looking after the needs of mother and child you’ll need to develop excellent family-care skills.
Gynecological sonography checks female reproductive health overall, unrelated to pregnancy. It can detect tumors, ovarian cysts, and help with IUD procedures. Small parts include breast sonography which is key for breast cancer detection, among others.
Cardiovascular sonography focuses on the heart and vascular systems. They’re broken down into a focus on heart and chest issues, and a focus on veins and arteries. Ultrasounds evaluate patients who show signs or a history of chest pain or stroke, for example.
Abdominal ultrasound specialists use ultrasounds to detect kidney stones, liver cirrhosis, and masses. Musculoskeletal or MSK involves focusing on ligaments, tendons, nerves, and muscles. It’s popular in sports medicine and has benefits for physiotherapy and muscle recovery.
All five of the major areas have their own specialty exams to pass and the credentials you’ll need to earn. They all have their own sub-specializations as well. The most important part of how you get your training will be which specialty you pursue.
What You Need to Know About Getting Proper Ultrasound Training
There’s a lot to consider about proper ultrasound training. Including what your program offers, accreditation, learning preferences, and which specialty you want. If you still have questions, our site has plenty of great information to offer.