Job Title: Cardiac Sonographer
Education: BS Boston University
Previous Experience: I started as a temp doing EKG's for a summer and then was hired as a full time cardiopulmonary technician doing pulmonary function tests, reading holter monitors and doing stress tests. I then worked for a mobile cardiac ultrasound company, traveling to eastern Massachusetts doing echoes in hospitals and doctor's offices.
Job Tasks: I work for a local cardiologist who is the owner of a mobile, non-invasive cardiac testing company. I am a cardiac sonographer (ultrasound of the heart - also called a echocardiographer) for his company. Including his office, sonoraphers may alo work in local hospital echo labs or other cardiologists' offices. These are facilities who contract with our company to staff and equip their stress testing and echo labs. I am currently working in a neighborhood clinic for a group of internists and a cardiologist doing echos for their out patients.
On a typical day I work from 9 to 5. Patients are booked hourly. For the echocardiograms, I am responsble for obtaining and recording the patient's cardiac history, symptoms, and medications. The patient is made to feel comfortable and the procedure is fully explained. I will then procede with the exam using the standard, required echo protocol. Heart size and function is measured and recorded. Heart valves and their flows are also evaluated. These are all done in multiple views along the patient's chest. A typical exam takes 30 to 60 minutes. It is then my responsibility to write a preliminary report with all the measurements and observations recorded for the reading cardiologist.
We also perform cardiac stress tests in conjunction with an echocardiogram. A resting echo is done, the patient then exercises on a treadmill ideally to 85% of thier peak heart rate (= (220 minus their age) x 85 ) and an a echo is then done immediately post exercise. Working with a cardiologist, we evaluate the patients heart function before and after exercise looking for abnormalities that may suggest coronary artery disease.
I am also responsible for booking these tests and filing them and filling out the patient billing forms.
Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is the direct patient care. I am directly involved in the patient's heart health. The quality of these exams are greatly affected by the sonographer level of skill. The more skilled the sonographer, the better and more definite the information will be to the cardiologist caring for the patient. The sonographer often will be the first to alert the patient's doctor to any signifcant finding.
The worst part for me is the filing (paper cuts) and the billing forms.
Job Tips: Working in any medical environment after high school would be extremely beneficial in getting to know how hospitals work and the jargon. Even as a patient transporter, medical filing clerk, housekeeper, etc. would be helpful. Having experience as a medical assistant would be especially helpful for acquiring skills for patient interactions and medical knowledge. These experiences are a definite plus to getting acceptance to a two year ultrasound school.
Additional Thoughts: I would suggest that a newly trained sonographer work in a hospital doing inpatients. In this way the sonographer would be exposed to all kinds of interesting and exciting cardiac conditions and medical situations that one does not see on an outpatient basis.
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