Posted on April 25th, 2017 by

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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Comments: 2 Comments »

Posted on October 23rd, 2014 by

A reader from Canada recently found my blog and is interested in a career in ultrasound.  She wanted to know about the job market in Canada, whether sonographers experience pain after several years and if pursuing the career is worth the time.

I’m going to post my response because I feel sure there are other young girls out there right now googling about the field and this will give them a good place to start reading some pertinent information..providing they find my blog, too!

Feel free to forward this to anyone you think is looking for these career tidbits.  I’m providing the site and my email address if they have any questions for me, as well!


Hi, Future Potential Sonographer!

I’m glad you’ve found my blog and I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have!  I am going to include several links to previous posts about what I do that should explain a lot about my job. I could go on for hours!

Also, just know that I am in the US so all I’ve written pertains to care here and not abroad, where OB care is managed much differently. That being said, I have no idea how healthcare is managed in Canada where you have socialized medicine or to what extent ultrasound is utilized there. Your best bet is to do some serious hospitals and try to speak to someone in Ultrasound (a Dept of Radiology) and also OB physician offices and ask if you may speak with a sonographer (if private practices employ them there). Also, you can try to find a teaching hospital there and they can maybe give you some idea of the job market. I’m afraid I cannot expound on jobs there since I do not know to what extent sonographers are used there. If I were you, this would be my first order of business to determine.

I will tell you that no sonographer right out of school is very competent. It takes lots of supervision initially and guidance to build your own confidence in your skills. Once you have some experience and become certified (I’m thinking Canada probably requires some sort of registry exam as in the US though I am unsure), you will be more valuable to an employer.

Many sonographers do develop carpal tunnel or shoulder issues because of repetitive motion. I always try to not hold my probe very tightly and this helps.

Sonography as a career is only worth pursuing if you determine it’s right for you! Being in medicine means you have direct contact with a patient’s body and body fluids. It’s not all only OB or fun. This is the perception but it is actually quite difficult to learn and learning to do it well takes time. If you don’t mind working with blood, patients and being under the scrutiny of physicians, pursuing a career in sonography is a challenging one you may enjoy. Make sure you will have opportunities for work!

Have fun reading and best of luck to you!!

If you have further questions after reading, please don’t hesitate to send another email:)


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Posted on September 29th, 2014 by

I received a comment to my last post from a subscriber and fellow sonographer about her experience in training. She doles out a bit of ultrasound training advice for those in the midst or contemplating this education. Read on!

Miss RDMS:  I just had a patient yesterday ask me about ultrasound school. Her daughter was in the program but quit because her teacher discouraged her by saying he didn’t think she would ever be good. I know how that feels because when I was in school, my teacher said the same thing to me. I loved ultrasound, though, and remember my first day of clinicals was so exciting because I knew I wanted to do this. When my teacher said that to me, it lit a fire that I just had to prove her wrong. When I graduated, I remember feeling so inadequate and full of anxiety, but that just pushed me more to get out my books. I just knew that if I worked hard and was proactive in learning everything I could, someday I would be an excellent sonographer. After 12 years, I feel very confident in my skills, and I love to teach others so as to help them. There is nothing I’d rather do for a career and feel that I was meant to do this. Going back to the patient I had yesterday and talking about her daughter giving up and regretting it, I feel so grateful that I didn’t. Especially in the beginning of this career, you will be discouraged but don’t let it get you down too much. Let it motivate you to get better.

wwavblogger:  I first worked with a radiologist who told me I was terrible. I was. But I was very new and green. What he should have done instead was show me how to be better. I have worked with students over the years that I knew would never be a good sonographer but passed certification regardless. I do also believe people should be given a chance, but they also have to be able to cut the mustard!


Anyone entering the field cannot possess an aversion to blood or body fluids. This is part of the job as we come in direct contact with such every day.

I will add here also that radiologists are responsible for the sonographer’s work. Some are hell to work with and others are great. Some have been reading for many years and simply want the meat and potatoes of a case. They don’t want to spend time coddling a newbie or double-checking the work to ensure all is correct. Songraphers have to prove themselves over time. It can be a hostile atmosphere for the new sonographer, especially someone who is new to medicine altogether. I do agree with Miss RDMS, however, that with lots of hard work, proper supervision, and with the ability to overcome an introverted nature to ask a thousand questions, you can be a competent sonographer over time, too.

I can make you a promise. Medicine is no place for the timid (or the squeamish)!

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Posted on September 27th, 2014 by

The title of the post says it all. I really cannot count all the times in a week patients make a comment about learning ultrasound as I begin to scan them. Mostly it’s the GYN patients because, as we know, most parents initially become understandably googly-eyed with Baby. Later I get the “Gosh, how do you know what you’re seeing?”

I’ll usually respond with a smile and something like, “We get lots of experience here!” and “After 23 years, I better know what I’m seeing!” I typically add here that ultrasound was positively the hardest thing I’ve ever learned, and I have posted on the subject before. Well, in the field of medicine and healthcare, we’re always learning — that never stops. I suppose this is true in all of life, as well! If a sonographer has “stopped” learning, it’s time for a new career.

Ultrasound Physics, anatomy and physiology of the fetus and inhabited uterus, neonatal heads, pelvic organs, adult and fetal heart, peripheral and cerebrovascular systems (arms, legs, neck and brain), abdominal organs, small parts (this is technically what they’re called) like the breast and thyroid and scrotum are some examples of the systems we begin to learn. Also, how they look normally by ultrasound, how to measure them, what dimensions are normal, what images to obtain, and how many to take are part of this education. Then let’s not forget pathology. The hundreds of disease processes or benign findings and conditions associated with each of these systems, how they present, how they affect the organs around them, associated examinations and patient labs are an additional challenge. Another aspect of learning this modality is how to operate the equipment properly, write reports, what to write/not write, how to present to the radiologist or physician and what to say/not say…most of us learn this the hard way! There is also newer ultrasound technology working in the field of nerves and the musculoskeletal system.

Surprised?! I thought you might be. For example, when we are performing a fetal anatomy screen (the 18-20 Week scan), we are attempting to rule out some 200 conditions and disease processes.

The hardest part was becoming confident with what I was seeing — to recognize and decipher normal from abnormal. As a sonographer, the machine does NOTHING on its own. It is the most operator-dependant modality of imaging that exists. This is why proper supervision is so important initially. The first six months out of school and working were horrendous, the next six were better, the following six months to a year yielded a better mental picture of my job as a whole. I was then ready to take on some challenges and ask more questions.

There are typically two schools of thought floating about the general public with regards to learning ultrasound…either that it’s super hard or very easy. Those of us who have been doing this a while certainly can make it look the latter. After reading this post, however, you be the judge!

Comments: 1 Comment »

Posted on April 6th, 2014 by

Studying ultrasound is no easy task. Actually, it was the most difficult and challenging thing I’ve ever done. Check out the email I received from my ambitious Aussie reader below:

reader:  Hi there, I just wanted to start off by saying I love reading your blog!

I especially wanted to message you because, whether I’m the first person to say so or not, mothers aren’t the only readers you have!
I am not pregnant, (or even anywhere near the ballpark of having children!), rather, I am extremely eager to pursue sonography as a career, specialising in Obstetrics and Gynecology so I can do what you do. Showing parents their children for the very first time is such a special moment that it would make all of the hard work and waiting worthwhile.
You truly inspire me and keep me motivated, as currently I’m only starting my path towards becoming a sonographer. That’s because sonography is a post-graduate course, and I am new to university this year. (Thus, about 3 years before I can even begin studying ultrasound)
I hope that you take pride in knowing that your blog is bringing comfort and joy to parents as well as inspiration and motivation to people like me. I really do see you as a role model for the type of professional that I would like to be in the future. Please keep up the amazing work!
You are blessed to have such a rewarding career, even with the ups and downs of pregnancy. I am not so blind as to think that pregnancy is always complication free, especially as a reader of your blog, but I know that the smiles on the faces of just one happy couple could make any day a great day.
I’ll be silently cheering for you to continue blogging!
I wish her and every other aspiring sonographer the best in their ultrasound endeavors. Best advice?
 Don’t be afraid to ask questions for as long as it takes to reach clarity.
I’d love to add a message for sonographers, especially those who are new to the field. A quality exam is important. Your thoroughness, accuracy and attention to detail can determine whether your patient goes to surgery or goes home. Ultrasound, being the most operator-dependent modality, requires great experience. I recommend all newly-certified sonographers work in a busy hospital where education and supervision are emphasized. You should NOT try to work in a clinical setting alone right out of training! It will take time for you to recognize pathology on your own. You WILL miss pathology, and it will be a disservice to your patients. I cannot emphasize this enough. Ask questions of your supervisors and physicians. Ask for supervision while scanning. Look up answers. Become informed. Details matter. Talk to your patients and listen. It’s important they feel you care about why they are seeing you. Don’t just be a good sonographer, be a great one. Your patients deserve it. Good luck in your ultrasound career where education and the opportunities to learn are endless. We never know it all so keep challenging yourself!

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