The medical field is a growing one, and patients need help from a variety of medical professionals to recover and function at their highest capacity. However, doctors must arrive at a diagnosis before informing patients of what is wrong and what they can do to help. This is where diagnostic medical sonographers enter the picture.
Diagnostic medical sonography involves using equipment with high-frequency sound waves to obtain images from inside the patient’s body. The work of sonographers is vital to supporting physicians who treat patients directly. If you are interested in a high-paying career in healthcare that only requires an associate degree, working as a diagnostic medical sonographer could be the perfect opportunity.
What to Expect When Working as a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
You must have strong technical skills to operate and troubleshoot ultrasound machines that produce internal images of patients’ bodies. Additionally, you need to have strong interpersonal communication skills and empathy to guide interactions with patients. The first thing you will do when meeting with new patients is review their medical history and answer questions about the procedure. Putting patients at ease is an important part of your job.
Patients typically lie down on an exam table after changing into the appropriate outerwear that you provide for them. To start the exam, you apply a special gel to the patient’s body in the area the referring physician needs to be examined. The gel makes it easier to glide your handheld device over the skin. As you are busy moving the device, it sends sound waves to an attached computer that creates an image of specific organs or tissues. Ultrasound exams are also routine for pregnant women to allow the obstetrician to track fetal growth and development.
Your training in the diagnostic medical sonographer degree program at Casa Loma College teaches you how to record ultrasound waves to read and interpret later. You will write a summary of the findings and forward your report to the referring physician. Patients always receive their diagnosis from the doctor who sends them for an ultrasound.
Demand and Average Salary for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted in May 2020 that the demand for medical sonographers who have completed an accredited degree program will grow at a rate of 14 percent between now and the end of the decade. The median annual salary for diagnostic medical sonographers in all specialties is $70,380. However, your exact salary depends on your level of experience and which specialty you pursue.
Specialties in Diagnostic Medical Sonography
Sonography specialties focus on the area of the body where the patient is experiencing symptoms or specific patient populations. Pediatrics and OB-GYN are two examples of the latter. Here are some specialties you might wish to consider as a diagnostic medical sonographer:
- Abdominal: This involves imaging the abdominal cavity and adjacent organs, including the liver, spleen, pancreas, and gallbladder.
- Breast: As a breast sonographer, you conduct an ultrasound exam to determine whether patients have cysts or tumors. Doctors also refer patients for monitoring of cysts or tumors during treatment.
- Cardiovascular: This specialty focuses entirely on obtaining images of the patient’s heart, chambers, blood vessels, and valves. The image you create with an ultrasound machine is an echocardiogram.
- Musculoskeletal: Doctors need images of muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints to determine whether patients need specific treatment. The images you create inform them where to place an injection or start a surgical procedure.
- Neurological: As a neuro sonographer, you will obtain images of some or all parts of the brain according to the doctor’s request.
- Pediatric: Much of your work will be with premature or sick newborns, and you will work closely with the newborn intensive care unit (NICU). You will also work with older children in the hospital and those who have come in for a diagnostic appointment.
- OB-GYN: You will help to detect disorders of the female reproductive system as an OB-GYN sonographer. You will also take ultrasound images of pregnant women for monitoring purposes.
- Vascular: You will obtain images of blood vessels to help doctors diagnose issues affecting blood flow in the patient’s body. Common vascular issues include blood clots and blocked arteries.
According to the BLS, diagnostic medical sonographers who work in outpatient care centers earn the highest median salary at $96,780. Sonographers who work in hospitals typically earn the lowest median salary at $71,650. Keep in mind that the median salary represents people at the mid-point of their career. You will not start out earning as much, but can quickly advance in salary if you prove yourself knowledgeable and reliable. Currently, the average median salary for neurological sonographers is highest at $112,00 and lowest for OB-GYN sonographers at $68,000.
Are you ready to take the first step towards an exciting new career in the medical field? Contact Casa Loma College to learn more about our diagnostic medical sonographer degree program today.