Posted on April 25th, 2017 by wombwithaviewblog.com

Oh, the adventures of becoming a sonographer!


sonographer, ultrasound technologist

Isn’t this facial profile precious? But it’s not just any profile; it’s a technically perfect 2D ultrasound example of a simply beautiful fetal profile. It’s what we sonographers strive to obtain on every baby we scan and reminds me of how I fell in love with the technology…with my own first baby 🙂 I was well into my college career at the time, but nothing else had quite piqued my interest like my first exposure to ultrasound. Boy, I had no idea what challenges lay ahead!

Becoming a sonographer, aka ultrasound technologist, was one of THE biggest challenges of my entire life. The training was challenging, but finding myself in a new field and technology where I was painfully ignorant and unsure? Healthcare is not a place for the timid.

A Sonographer’s Start – Whoa! (What a Challenge)

If I was going to work with physicians, I better learn what I was doing fast or go home. It took a while for the puzzle pieces to fit…a good 6 months to 1 year. Thereafter, little light bulbs of realization would flicker every time I put two and two together. It was a marriage of all things unfamiliar. I was learning to read patient charts, learning about labs and correlative examinations, interaction with the physicians and with my patients. All of these things were a recipe for growing my new career as well as learning the technology. In the beginning, it was more about “How do I not screw up?” rather than “Wow, that was a great case!”

I promise you, it’s not for the squeamish. If another person’s urine, vomit, or blood bothers you, Ultrasound may not be for you. I cannot emphasize that enough! It was a hard year, and I felt like I was walking a tightrope for the vast majority of it. Brutal.

A Sonographer’s Fear

All new sonographers will miss pathology. It’s a fact of the modality. Initially, you are too concerned with getting all the right images. You’re too inexperienced to notice minor pathology. This is why it is so imperative that a newly-trained sonographer has direct supervision from someone very experienced. With lots of experience comes confidence. After a while, a newbie will start to get a feel for his/her scanning ability and stop second-guessing herself. Was I not seeing an organ because it can’t be seen or because I just couldn’t find it? It’s an awful feeling. However, it is one that can be overcome with time and, again, experience.

The more normal examinations a technologist performs, the sooner she will know when a case is not normal. Ten to fifteen scans per day over the course of a year equals a good bit of experience. After the first few months of constant supervision (if you don’t have it, ask for it!), you will start to become a little more comfortable with the examinations. You’ll then only need a supervisor’s help when confronted with abnormal cases. You may not be able to pinpoint a diagnosis, but you know it’s not what you normally see. This is very important in your early career. Eventually, you will be able to put together differentials to possibly explain what you are imaging. It’s a good feeling when you get to this point!

A Sonographer’s Advice

It was a slow learning process, at least for me, anyway. Over the years, it became easier to work with the docs. More importantly, I learned how to better communicate with my patients, which has been the most rewarding. It feels really good to correctly diagnose a case. But it feels even better to have a patient sincerely thank you for your help…or give you a hug in appreciation. It feels good to know I’ve made a small but, hopefully, significant difference. It’s been a good career. And for those who are going into it, hang in there because it gets better. For those who have practiced a long time and feel the flames of burnout, take a vacation! We all need to step back and take a breather once in a while.

Every case is someone’s health and life at stake, and not a week goes by still without learning something new. What a sonographer sees (or misses!) will either lead that patient to other tests or lead to a missed diagnosis. It is sometimes intimidating to think that a patient is on your table and yours alone. It’s up to you to find the problem in question.

I always say I would never want to relive those earlier years, yet they have shaped who I am. They helped me become a better sonographer. So get out there! Become a sonographer, become good at it, research and read, and ask questions of co-workers and docs alike. Make a difference in someone’s life. Make a difference in your own 🙂

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