On the Job
Medical sonographers use ultrasound equipment to examine and test areas of a patient's body.
The use of ultrasounds for medical reasons began after World War II. In fact, medical sonography has its roots in the military, where sound waves were first used to measure distance under water. Then, scientists realized that sound could also be used to "see" images inside the body. Humans are, after all, made up of 75% water. Using this technology, medical sonographers operate transducers that send out sound waves. These, in turn, project an image on a screen. The term most people use to describe this process is "ultrasound." While most people think ultrasounds are used to see a baby in the womb, ultrasounds are actually used for a variety of medical reasons.Medical sonographers work closely with patients before and during ultrasounds. They review patient medical histories and previous test results. They explain to patients how the procedure works. They position each patient on an examination table and make sure patients are comfortable. For most procedures, sonographers spread a special gel on the patient's skin. This gel helps transmit the sound waves.
Next, sonographers then operate the ultrasound equipment. They move the transducer over the skin until they are able to get a good image. In some cases, they adjust patients to get a better angle. Sonographers frequently examine blood flow and internal organs. They may also check for fluid build-ups and to see a fetus in the womb. They record the images so that they can be referred to later. When an examination is finished, they often write their findings in a report, or discuss it in person with a physician.
Sonographers may perform other duties. They may schedule appointments and maintain files. They regularly clean and maintain their equipment and keep supplies in stock. They may also perform minor repairs. In addition, some may perform other medical duties, including taking vital signs or administering oxygen. Experienced sonographers may supervise other sonographers or train students in sonography programs.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Prepare patient for the exam. Explain the procedure, clean skin, and apply gel.
- Use ultrasound equipment to produce images of blood, organs, and tissues. Care for patients during examinations.
- Change the settings on equipment and adjust patients to get the best image.
- Watch the screen during an ultrasound to make sure the image is clear.
- Decide on the best images to use to show healthy or diseased areas.
- Give a summary of the findings to physicians.
- Process and mark film taken from procedures. Create and maintain files.
- Obtain patients' medical history, test results, and information from exams.
- Work with physicians and other medical staff.
- Maintain and prepare supplies and equipment.
- May supervise and train students and other sonographers.
- May perform other medical procedures, including giving oxygen, taking vital signs, and administering CPR or first aid.
- May perform some clerical duties, such as scheduling exams and procedures.
- Maintain records of exams and patient information.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Update and use job-related knowledge.
- Assist and care for others.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Document and record information.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Work with the public.
- Control machines and processes.
- Perform activities that use the whole body.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Process information.
- Use computers.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Analyze data or information.
- Teach others.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Inspect equipment, structures, or materials.
- Schedule work and activities.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Handle and move objects.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Have a very high level of social interaction. They constantly talk to patients, doctors, and nurses.
- Communicate by telephone and in person on a constant basis. They write letters, memos, and e-mail, but less often.
- Work as a part of a larger medical team.
- Are greatly responsible for the health and safety of others.
- Frequently deal with people who may be unpleasant or angry due to discomfort and illness.
- Are somewhat responsible for the work done by others.
- Are occasionally placed in conflict situations.
- Are exposed to diseases and infections from contact with patients on a daily basis.
- Work very near others. They come in close physical contact with patients every day.
- Regularly wear safety attire, including surgical masks and gloves.
- Must get into awkward positions to reach a cramped space on a weekly basis. In order to reach a particular spot on a patient's body, they may have to kneel or stoop.
- Are exposed to contaminants on a weekly basis.
- Always work indoors.
- Must be very exact and accurate when running equipment. Errors in testing can seriously endanger patients' health.
- Make decisions that strongly impact their employer, coworkers, and patients on a daily basis. They rarely consult a supervisor before deciding a course of action.
- Set some of their tasks and goals for the day without talking to a supervisor first. Work is usually dictated by patient needs.
- Work in a moderately stressful atmosphere. They must abide by daily patient schedules.
- Often repeat the same physical and mental activities.
- Generally work a set schedule.
- Usually work full time, about 40 hours per week.
- May work nights, weekends, or holidays. Hospitals need tests run at all hours of the day.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Use their hands to handle, control, or feel objects, tools, or controls.
- Repeat the same movements.
- Bend or twist their body.
- Sit, stand, or walk for long periods of time.
- See details of objects whether they are nearby or far away.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold the hand steady while moving the arm.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- Make quick, precise adjustments to machine controls.
- Use fingers or hands to grasp, move, or assemble objects.
- Move two or more limbs together (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while remaining in place.
- See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
- Bend, stretch, twist, or reach out.
- Determine the distance between objects.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
- Use stomach and lower back muscles to support the body for long periods without getting tired.
- Be physically active for long periods without getting tired or out of breath.
- Use muscles to lift, push, pull, or carry heavy objects.
- Choose quickly and correctly among various movements when responding to different signals.
- Coordinate movement of several parts of the body, such as arms and legs, while the body is moving.
- React quickly using hands, fingers, or feet.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
- Make fast, repeated movements of fingers, hands, and wrists.
- Move arms and legs quickly.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.