What Do Ultrasound Technicians Really Do?

By Lisa J Parmley

Ultrasound technicians are also known as diagnostic medical sonographers or simply sonographers. Because of the unique duties and skills contained in an ultrasound technician job description, the U.S. Department of Labor considers ultrasound technician jobs to be distinct and separate from radiology jobs.

Sonographers are responsible for a series of activities related to successfully completing diagnostic ultrasound procedures on patients. The ultrasound technician job duties and responsibilities include:

  • Verifying patient clinical history and health status, evaluating related tests and images
  • Communicating comfortably and clearly with patient to explain the procedure, answer questions and relay information about what to expect during the procedure
  • Communicating any concerns to the referring or interpreting physician as needed prior to the planned ultrasound procedure
  • Consulting with medical professionals and independently assessing any possible need to adapt the planned procedure to achieve optimal results
  • Administering contrast media through an intravenous line as needed after receiving appropriate approval
  • Upholding quality patient care standards as professionally defined before, during and after the procedure
  • Operating the ultrasound equipment and analyzing findings in real time during the examination to ensure optimal data is obtained
  • Physically moving or assisting the movement of the patient as necessary to ensure comfort, a successful procedure and minimal patient exposure to high-frequency sound waves
  • Evaluating ultrasound exam results to identify expected and unexpected outcomes given the procedure plan as well as whether appropriate test guidelines and protocols were followed
  • Identifying and documenting unexpected results that may indicate the need for further testing or immediate medical attention
  • Completing ultrasound technician worksheets that explain test findings to the physician

While performing these duties, ultrasound technicians help preserve the integrity of the profession by adhering to a professional code of ethics designed to protect patient wellbeing, competent practice, professional standards and public trust. They take active roles in assessing the safety and effectiveness of the equipment they operate as well as the work environment and all aspects of their involvement in the profession. As discussed in the section of ultrasound technician education, they also undertake professional sonography certification and continuing education to maintain a high level of knowledge and skill in this rapidly evolving field.

With the advent of increasingly portable equipment, some ultrasound jobs now take place in locations away from hospitals, physicians’ offices and other facilities to which patients normally travel. A mobile sonographer operates and secures the van in which ultrasound equipment is transported and may either bring patients to this van for ultrasounds or roll equipment out to locations such as a clinic, a patient’s home or a nursing home. Bedside sonography technicians also use rolling equipment but do so within hospitals in instances where a patient is unable to leave an intensive care or cardiac care unit or a hospital room. This mobile technology also has tremendous benefit in emergency medicine and battlefield medicine. Ultrasound can offer rapid evaluation of a variety of traumatic and life-threatening conditions as well as provide internal visual guidance during some emergency procedures.

In performing mobile sonography services, ultrasound technicians must often devise creative solutions in order to effectively position patients and achieve technically adequate images under challenging circumstances. Travel sonography, in which technicians relocate to different geographical areas for extended periods of time, requires a particular commitment to adaptability in the face of unknown and unpredictable working conditions. Traveling ultrasound technicians encounter new living environments and diverse people in locations around the globe and sometimes choose to increase their marketability in these settings by being certified in related fields such as radiology as well.

If you are going to start an ultrasound tech career, visit Ultrasound Technician Career Center to get free resources on this occupation.

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