Medical sonographers focus on different parts of the body, such as the neurological system, the abdomen, musculoskeletal system and the breasts as well as fields such as obstetrics. The major role of a sonographer is the use of a transducer for the administration of ultrasound waves to various body parts for examination (O’Brien 2007). Since technology has involved the development of the device and efficient processes, sonographers need to be tech savvy to safely use the technology on patients (Ambrosini et al 2007). Based on their understanding and judgment of pathology, sonographers record and interpret images to determine abnormalities in the parts under examination.
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Although the images recorded may not make sense to lay people, they are very useful to sonographers. In other words, sonographers turn sound images into useful medical information used for diagnosis and assessment of patients (Burnside, Brown & Kline 2008; Daneman, Epelman, Blaser & Jarrin 2006; Islam & Mostafa 2013; Scheel et al 2006). To understand this, the current study examines the pathways to becoming a sonographer in the United States.
Pathways to becoming a sonographer
The two major pathways to becoming a sonographer in the United States are the primary pathway and the post-primary pathways.
For candidates to qualify for the primary pathway of becoming sonographers, they are required to complete an accredited sonography educational programme successfully. The accreditation body must be certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (AART). Sonographers using this pathway must attain a bachelor’s degree before certification. To make the pathway more reliable, accreditation by ARRT follows certification from other agencies certified by USDE and/or CHEA. In the primary pathway, candidates have educational qualifications that indicate their didactic competency. Furthermore, candidates in the primary pathway must be adequately competent in various clinical procedures under ARRT in areas of clinical competency and sonography didactic requirements (Harris 2009).
The post-primary pathway
The pathway requires an individual to have completed sonography clinical requirements as well as qualifications in MRI and/or radiography (Linton 2008).
Accreditation of sonographers in the United States
Sonographer accreditation in the United States requires candidates to have adequate educational requirements, achieve compliance rules and regulations, ethical standards and pass the sonography examination administered by ARRT (Wilson & Wilson 2009). Education requirements in sonography include successful completion of programs in related areas such as physiology and anatomy at the certificate or bachelor’s degree level (Janson, Michael, Berg & Anderson 2005). Sonography educational programs must be accredited. Having acquired the necessary education requirements, candidates must undergo practical training, where they use different technologies and understand images developed in various medical specialties (Islam & Mostafa 2013). On the job training is necessary to give students first-hand experience in procedures and policies, details of the field and equipment specifics.
Ethical requirements are major aspects of accreditation. In addition to compliance with ARRT ethical standards, rules and regulations, candidates must have an unquestionable moral character with a positive history in sonography practice and education. Before full accreditation, candidates must successfully undertake an examination administered by the ARRT with regard to sonography. The examination mainly tests the candidate’s cognitive skills and knowledge necessary for intelligent performance of tasks as a sonographer at an entry level (Hart & Dixon 2008). Candidates have three chances, at most, to pass the examination within a period of three years. Following successful completion of the educational, ethical and examination requirements, successful candidates are given the Candidate Status Report, which provides information about the candidate’s eligibility and provides information for scheduling for clinical examination in a period of not more than 90 days.
Regulation of sonography in the United States
Sonography that is used for diagnostic or therapeutic reasons is regulated in the United States of America by the Food and Drug Administration, whose standards are also acceptable in most parts of the world (Harris 2009). The Food and Drug Administration body uses various metrics to limit the acoustic output from sonography equipment. At the state level, it is the only New Mexico that regulates the practice of sonography in the state. In the regulation, FDA ensures sonography equipment comply with the established standards and sonographers complete successfully educational, examination and ethical requirements set by bodies such as the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). In equipment use, the major measures for regulation include the Mechanical index and the thermal index.
The mechanical index relates to the cavitation bio-effect while the thermal index relates to tissue heating bio-effect. According to FDA requirements, sonographers must not exceed the set standards in the metrics (Hart & Dixon 2008). The field of medical sonography also requires regulation. The purpose of regulation is to ensure the procedure is safe for both sonographers and patients (Sherer, Visconti, Ritenour & Haynes 2013). The regulatory body and other agencies offer public recognition to sonographers and their facilities and promote their commitment to high quality standards. Regulation ensures maintenance of qualification credentials and annual compliance to established procedures. The regulation includes requiring sonographers to continually undergo training and renew registration on after two years (Hart & Dixon 2008).
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