11 Things to Know Before Becoming a Cardiac Sonographer

Cardiac sonographers play an important role in health care. They are an important part of care teams that work to save the lives of patients every single day. A career in cardiac sonography can be rewarding and a way to make an impact on patients and their families. Here are 11 facts about working as a cardiac sonographer.

1. Sonography Is a Diagnostic Tool

Sonography uses ultrasound waves to show if an organ is diseased. It’s a common medical diagnostic procedure. With cardiac sonography, radio waves are bounced off the heart. The echoes of those signals form an image called an echocardiogram. That image and video of the heart’s chambers, valves and blood vessels help doctors diagnose and treat heart ailments.

2. Saving Lives Daily

Cardiac arrest is one of the most common killers around the world. Diagnostic cardiac sonographers are often the first line of defense in identifying and preventing heart attacks, heart disease and heart defects.

3. Various Educational Paths

To become a cardiac sonographer, you may complete a 2-year associate’s degree or a 4-year bachelor’s degree. You may also complete an externship where you will be exposed to cardiac sonography on daily basis and learn about the procedure and interaction with patients.

4. Credentials Available, But Not Required

While you do not need a license to become a cardiac sonographer, you can choose to become credentialed. Cardiac Credentialing International (CCI) offers several exams including, credentials for professionals working in the areas of ECG and stress testing, pediatric and adult congenital cardiac ultrasound, echocardiography, and vascular ultrasound. You may also register with a specialty credential in fetal, pediatric or adult cardiac sonography, after passing an exam, with the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). Both credentials are good for a year and can be renewed with continuing education credits.

5. Good Communication Wanted

Cardiac sonographers interact with many different types of people every day and need to be able to speak to them clearly and effectively. First and foremost are patients, many of whom may be ill or anxious. They may be scared or confused. Part of the job responsibilities include explaining the procedures to patients and their families, answering their questions and keeping them calm.

6. Collaboration Is Essential

You’ll be working as part of a team of caregivers that includes doctors, surgeons, nurses, aides and other staff working to take care of patients. It’s important that the team work together and coordinate care, communicate effectively and help each other as appropriate.

7. Good Job Outlook Now and In the Future

The job outlook for medical professionals is strong. The demand for talented cardiac sonographers will continue to grow. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the need for medical sonographers is projected to increase 14 percent from 2020 to 2030. There are estimated to be 14,000 openings annually for medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists, according to the federal agency.

In California, the number of Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians is expected to grow much faster than average growth rate for all occupations. According to the Employment Development Department of California, jobs for Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians are expected to increase by 16 percent, or 800 jobs between 2018 and 2028.

In Arizona, jobs for this position are growing at a rate of 32.9% which is faster than the nationwide estimated projection.

8. Bureaucracy Exists

Like in nearly every job, there is some bureaucracy to working in a medical setting. You’ll have a boss or bosses. You’ll need to document the procedures done and the images taken and present them to physicians or radiologists. In the department or clinic is shorthanded, you may be asked to make follow-up appointments, obtain completed patient consent forms or complete safety reports.

9. Work Flexibility X2

Due to the demand for cardiac sonographers, you have some control and flexibility. First, cardiac sonographers can work pretty much wherever they want. There are positions available, even for entry-level sonographers, in imaging centers, cardiologists’ offices, hospitals and mobile imaging companies. The demand is widespread across the country. Second, there’s demand for sonographers around the clock, especially in hospitals. While cardiology offices and clinics will likely be 9-5 roles, if you prefer second- or third-shift assignments, they are available.

10. Ongoing Learning Required

With new advances, procedures and technologies coming online, there’s always a need for cardiac sonographers to hone their skill sets. There are opportunities to obtain training and sonographers should read articles to keep appraised of updates in the profession. Even the most experienced sonographers attend workshops and conferences to ensure they know the latest about this important work.

11. Little Recognition at Times

Cardiac sonographers work behind the scenes and it can often be a role with little acknowledgement of the work done. That’s not to say your work isn’t appreciated. It’s that your role is that of an unsung hero, frequently doing important work that does not receive the accolades that doctors or nurses do. A career in cardiac sonography can be a fulfilling way to be a part of the fast-paced medical profession. With demand for the role continuing to rise, flexibility and the ability to save lies, it’s a career worth considering.

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