Ultrasound technicians use specialized technology to create and view internal images of the body, called ultrasounds or sonograms. These images are especially useful to see things like the heart, nervous system, muscles, stomach, reproductive system, and other soft tissues. An ultrasound bounces sound waves off internal organs and uses the resulting echoes to create a computer image that shows the technician the condition of organs and other tissues. These images can help physicians diagnose conditions, track pregnancies, or look for internal damage.
Medical imaging is still a growing technology, but one that is favored over costly, invasive procedures like exploratory surgery. It's often the first tool used for diagnosing patients because of its safety and effectiveness. As a large population of Americans continue to age, non-invasive diagnosis equipment will be key in maintaining care and comfort.
There are several schooling options for prospective diagnostic medical sonographers in the Washington D.C. metro area, which includes nearby states. All of the following programs are accredited:
In nearby Baltimore, Maryland, (40 miles from Washington D.C.) there are also accredited diagnostic sonography schools at Johns Hopkins University and University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Because the field requires both technical knowledge and caregiving skills, formal education is a helpful and necessary step to becoming an ultrasound technician. Sonographers have several options for training including bachelor's and associate degree programs, as well as some one-year programs that grant certificates for those already working in health care.
Students can often specialize in ultrasound on a certain area of the body, for which they'll take focused classes. Most programs have some clinical element so students can learn from a professional technician in real-life situations with actual patients and doctors. Course topics may include:
Students should expect to develop skills in operating and maintaining ultrasound equipment, interpreting diagnostic images, working with patients, and summarizing ultrasound information for both patients and physicians.
Employers generally look to hire graduates from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Graduating students should obtain certification from the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) or Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI). Generally, this is done by passing exams after graduating. If you choose to specialize in a certain area of sonography, you can earn an additional certification in that area. Most sonography technicians have at least one certification, but others choose to pursue multiple, especially if they want to specialize in something. Washington D.C. does not require a separate license beyond certification.
Choosing the right program and finding adequate support can set you up for a fulfilling career in sonography. Here are a few resources for prospective sonography students: