Pediatric echocardiography is a specialized area in the field of sonography which focuses on providing cardiac sonography in children, both before and after they’re born. A person working in this field — called a pediatric echocardiography technician, pediatric cardiac sonographer or an echocardiographer — trains in how to use medical imaging technology to monitor the hearts and vascular systems in pediatric patients, including screening for congenital conditions or even signs of heart disease. They work closely with both obstetricians, pediatricians, and other physicians and medical professionals and serve as an integral part of a care team. It’s a vital career that can help pediatric patients get the very best treatment they need, resulting in better long-term care and health outcomes.
But how do people become pediatric echocardiography technicians? And what kind of career outlook does this position have? Keep reading for a deeper dive into the ins and outs of this field.
How to Become a Pediatric Echocardiographer
Becoming a pediatric cardiac sonographer generally requires completing a formal training program through an accredited school. Since this is a specialized form of ultrasound, you’ll definitely need pediatric-specific training, often after you’ve already gotten trained and licensed as an adult cardiovascular sonographer. You’ll need to be familiar not just with the technology and equipment you’ll use, but also the specific concerns and needs of the pediatric population you’ll be serving.
You should look for a program that emphasizes hands-on training from experienced instructors and also helps you prepare to sit for the ARDMS Pediatric Echocardiography (PE) exam. This exam is absolutely required in order to be certified to work in the field.
Pediatric Echocardiography Classes
Generally speaking, a pediatric cardiac sonography diploma or certification program is really going to dial in on the specific needs of this specialization. Your courses will be focused on topics like:
- Cardiac anatomy and physiology, including cardiac embryology
- Evaluating cardiac anatomy, including systolic and diastolic cardiac function
- Assessing valvular regurgitation and stenosis
- Physical signs and genetic syndromes associated with cardiac defects
- Fetal echocardiography, TEE, and other imaging modalities
- Segmental approaches to echo examinations
- Etiology, morphology and the prevalence of severe defects of the heart, including cyanotic lesions
- Incorporating color and spectral Doppler analysis and modified views
- Acquired heart diseases, cardiomyopathies, pulmonary hypertension, heart transplants, cardiac masses, and ECMO
- Performing evaluations on postoperative patients following the surgical repair of congenital heart defects
- Cardiac catheterization evaluations of congenital heart defects
- Responsibilities and legal/medical ethics for sonographers
Programs like the Pediatric Cardiac Ultrasound diploma program at WCUI School of Medical Imaging will also incorporate a clinical externship component to help you hone the skills you learn in the classroom and lab spaces. They also will ensure you have time to review and prepare for your ARDMS PE examination so that you’re ready to sit for you certification upon successful completion of the program.
Career Outlook for Pediatric Echocardiographers
There is a significant amount of demand in the field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook from 2020 to 2030 indicates that there is a need for 19,100 people in this field nationally, with Arizona expecting job growth of 28% and California by 47%. That’s close to four and six times higher than the national average for all occupations, respectively.
Where Do Pediatric Echocardiographers Work?
On the whole, most pediatric echocardiographers will likely find themselves employed in hospitals. In fact, 78% of cardiovascular technicians in May of 2020 worked in state, local, and private hospital facilities, according to the BLS. This includes specialized hospitals that focus on children and pediatric care, in the vein of St. Jude’s or Children’s Mercy.
That being said, there are opportunities outside of the hospital system, too. Pediatric echocardiographers can find work in:
- Large medical centers
- Pediatric and OB/GYN physicians’ offices
- Outpatient and urgent care centers
- Medical and diagnostic laboratories
- And more
What Else Do I Need to Know About Becoming a Pediatric Echocardiographer?
It’s a career field that’s both incredibly rewarding and also dynamic and sometimes challenging. On a day-to-day basis, you could go from fetal ultrasounds to working with babies or teenagers, in ways that can drastically affect their medical care and, potentially, their lives. You should expect a work environment that can be fast-paced and requires you to think critically on the go, as well as lots of patient interaction.
Some other qualities that help in this career are:
- Being detail-oriented, as you’ll have to follow very precise instructions and analyze the images you take to ensure you’re getting a clear picture of what you need
- Having strong interpersonal skills to be able to both connect with patients and the patient’s family in a calm, comforting way and also clearly communicate with other members of the medical care team
- Exhibiting a lot of warmth and patience, since many of your patients may be small children, pregnant women who are scared or worried, families with a child undergoing the procedure, and other situations that are often stressful
About WCUI’s Pediatric Echocardiography Diploma Program
If you have already completed an adult cardiovascular sonography program and are interested in getting certified in pediatric echocardiography, you can take your first step by contacting WCUI about our Pediatric Cardiac Ultrasound diploma program. In just 9 months, you can gain the skills and knowledge you need to sit for the ARDMS PE exam and take your sonography career to the next level.
Take the time to learn more about this hands-on, impactful medical career by reaching out to WCUI today. We’d be happy to discuss our programs in more detail and get you started on a brand-new future.