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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Posted on July 19th, 2014 by wombwithaviewblog.com

Ultrasound Advice for New Sonographers

New sonographer ultrasound advice is a topic that needs addressing for anyone new to the field. It’s a tough place out there for you. I know, I lived it, too.

A Fine Example of Negligence

I felt a bit distressed to learn something recently. It is an important lesson for any new sonographer, especially. A recent graduate of a sonography program landed her very first job out of school with a temp agency. With essentially no work experience, her recruiter advised her to “Fake it ’til you make it.” I thought I’d faint. She lied saying her recruit had one year of experience and placed her in an OB practice to work alone. The lack of responsibility of this recruiter left me surprised and horrified. The quality of exam a patient receives was obviously of no importance. This is unfortunate.

Moreover, the horror this new sonographer experienced is another story. Even though she had a brief period of training by the sonographer going on leave, she was uncomfortable with scanning or reporting anything on her own. With no experience to call on, she did not possess the confidence to call a case normal or abnormal. Where does someone even begin to construct a report when she is unsure of what she sees on the monitor? This is unfortunate and a precarious circumstance for all involved.

Don’t get me wrong. Everyone has to learn, and all new sonographers need the opportunity to become better. But, like so many things in life, there’s a right way and a wrong way to accomplish this task. It has to be fair to both the sonographer in training as well as the patient. Therefore, the following is a message to all sonographers who have just stepped out of the classroom and into the real world of practice.

Turn the Table…

From a slightly different perspective, please consider the following ultrasound advice. If it were you, your daughter, your mother, or your sister on the examination table, wouldn’t you want to know if it was the first exam performed by your provider? We all like to feel as though we are in good hands, competent hands when we seek medical attention or advice. Wouldn’t it be disconcerting to know the person scanning you is new, overwhelmed, and lacks the knowledge in all ways to perform your exam properly? Every patient deserves to have their examination performed by someone who is knowledgeable and properly trained. After all your hard work in school, you deserve to be properly trained!

Just in Case Your Instructors Didn’t Tell You…

You are not qualified to work alone. You need direct supervision from someone with qualified experience. You need direct supervision for all of your exams performed for at least three solid months. After that, you need to ensure you work in an environment with at least one other experienced go-to sonographer for questions..because you will have them. You will have a lot of them. We all did.

You should never lie about your experience, even if a recruiter tells you to do so. Potential employers need to ensure how much they can rely on your skill and experience outside the classroom. Your class time and clinical rotations count as experience toward taking your registry examinations, but it doesn’t go far toward real-world experience. You were in school and learning. You will still be learning volumes over the next few years. No one ever knows it all, and this is a field where you will continue to learn your entire career.

Students and new technologists, once you have scanned about twenty-five normal cases (give or take), you will be able to scan a normal exam on your own pretty easily. Tackling pathology is a whole other ball game. You will feel more comfortable you taking on the challenge of an unfamiliar process when you develop more confidence in your skill and ability. Everyone’s learning curve is different. If you learn new things quickly, you may feel more confident in your skills in less time. If you have a no-fear personality, you’ll have less problem jumping in with questions or presenting cases to physicians when you are unsure of a diagnosis.

What About a Private OB Practice?

Sonographers in a private practice need a great deal of experience. They need to be able to work independently and have enough confidence in their skills to tackle a challenging case without breaking a sweat. They should feel very comfortable scanning patients in every week of pregnancy with no question regarding the protocol of any exam. Do we still turn to our co-workers for a second eye from time to time? Of course, we do. It’s all part of continuing education and proactively learning where we have the opportunity to grow. It’s imperative. Remember, we never know it all!

In our office, we do not hire anyone who is not registered in OB/GYN with less than three years of full-time OB/GYN experience. How can a physician trust your work if you don’t trust it yourself? A physician relies heavily on the experience and ultrasound advice of his/her sonographers to provide competent and thorough examinations. How can they properly treat their patients otherwise?

Your job as a sonographer is to find pathology. You can’t diagnose what you don’t recognize, and you won’t recognize what you’ve never seen. This is just the nature of the beast.

Be Your Own Advocate!

I’m sorry if your educators failed you. They have a responsibility to not only teach you in the classroom, but what to expect outside of it. This is not your fault. It reminds me of an old adage which says that you can’t know what you don’t know. So, before you take your first job or any job thereafter, ask yourself if you are experienced enough to commit to it. Then ask if you will have supervision. Start out in a teaching hospital. Sonographers are thrilled to share their knowledge with you in such facilities! Learn what you need before you think about branching out on your own. You owe it to yourself in order to become a better sonographer. You owe it to your patient to provide a quality examination.

Patients: if this is overly concerning to you, it should be. You can always inquire as to the experience of your healthcare providers!

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