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Sonography is a non-invasive medical procedure that uses the echoes of high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to construct an image (sonogram) of internal organs or body structures.
In sonography, a transmitting device (the transducer) sends out high-frequency ultrasound waves. Harmless sound waves, which contain no radiation, bounce off the surfaces of the object they hit. The reflected sound forms an echo which is visualized on the screen.
A Diagnostic Medical Sonographer is a highly-skilled professional who uses specialized equipment to create images (sonograms) of structures inside the human body. Physicians interpret the images to make a medical diagnosis.
The professional responsibilities of a diagnostic medical sonographer include, but are not limited, to:
• Obtaining and recording an accurate patient history
• Performing diagnostic procedures and obtaining diagnostic images
• Analyzing technical information
• Using independent judgment in recognizing the need to extend the scope of the procedure according to the diagnostic findings
• Providing an oral or written summary of the technical findings to the physician for medical diagnosis
• Providing quality patient care
• Collaborating with physicians and other members of the health care team
Because they are often dealing with people in physical and/or emotional pain, Diagnostic Medical Sonographers must be sensitive to the needs of their patients. In addition, they must be detail-oriented team players and able to follow doctors’ directions explicitly. Documentation and maintenance of patients' records is also a requirement of the Diagnostic Medical Sonography profession. Operating complicated equipment requires mechanical ability and manual dexterity, while long periods of standing and lifting patients requires physical stamina.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers may work full or part time. Since hospitals are open 24 hours, weekend and evening hours are sometimes required.
There are several areas of specialization in the field of sonography, including:
- Abdomen (AB) – evaluation of all the soft tissues, blood vessels and organs of the abdominal cavities (for example, liver, spleen, urinary tract and pancreas)
- Breast (BR) – evaluation of breast abnormalities that are found with screening or diagnostic mammography
- Cardiac (Adult Echocardiography (AE), Pediatric Echocardiography (PE) and Fetal Echocardiography (FE) – evaluation of the anatomy and hemodynamics (blood flow) of the heart, its valves and related blood vessels, including Adult Echocardiography (AE), Pediatric Echocardiography (PE) and Fetal Echocardiography (FE)
- Musculoskeletal (MSK) – evaluation of joints and soft tissue
- Pediatric Sonography (PS) – evaluation of the head, spine, chest, hips/ joints and the male and female genitourinary system of the pediatric patient
- Obstetrics (OB)/Gynecology – evaluation of the female reproductive system
- Vascular Technology (VT) – evaluation and analysis of the hemodynamics (blood flow) of peripheral and abdominal blood vessels
Opportunities and Salary
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 17% employment growth for diagnostic medical sonographers between 2019 and 2029. In that period, an estimated 12,500 jobs should open up.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers made a median salary of $74,320 in 2019.
In addition to region and education, factors such as specialty, industry and employer have an effect on a diagnostic medical sonographer’s salary. Many diagnostic medical sonographers work full time and often work past normal business hours in 24-hour facilities.
Professional Certification Disclosure
As a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, upon completion of an accredited program, an individual takes one or more certification examinations and, if successful, becomes certified in a specialty area (e.g., abdomen, vascular, etc.). The certification organization (i.e., "registry") awards a credential to recognize the individual who has met all of the certification organization's qualifications/requirements.
Employers, insurers, accreditation organizations, and professional organizations in the sonography community are increasingly seeking demonstration of competence through sonographer certification/credential in each of specialty areas in which the sonographer practices.
The Cleveland Clinic requires a minimum of one certification from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) - Abdominal (AB), Obstetrics (OB)/gynecology or Vascular (VT) prior to hire with all three specialties being required within the first year of hire.