Diagnostic medical sonographers, also known as ultrasound technologists, are highly-skilled professionals who use specialized equipment to create images (sonograms) of structures inside the human body. Diagnostic medical sonographers (DMS) create images and/or conduct tests that are then passed on to radiologists and/or physicians to help assess and diagnose medical conditions.
Diagnostic medical sonographers may often work with providers, specialists, and surgeons before, during, and after procedures depending on need. They specialize in creating images of the body’s organs and tissues commonly referred to as sonograms or ultrasounds. Often sonograms are the first images a physician asks for when a disease is suspected.
Diagnostic sonography makes use of high-frequency sound waves to produce images from inside the body. An instrument called an ultrasound transducer is used to scan the area of concern or screen for potential pathology.
Professional Responsibilities of a DMS can include but are not limited to
- Obtaining and recording patient history
- Performing diagnostic procedures and obtaining images
- Analyzing technical information
- Identifying abnormal pathology within the body
- Using their own judgment in recognizing the need to extend the scope of procedure based on diagnostic findings.
- Providing an oral or written summary of examination findings to radiologist or physician for diagnosis
- Providing quality patient care
- Collaborating with physicians and other members of the health care team
Types of Diagnostic Medical Sonography specializations
- Abdomen (AB) - evaluation of all the soft tissues, blood vessels, and organs of the abdominal cavities (this registry also include small parts i.e. thyroid, testicles, and superficial lesions)
- Breast (BR) - evaluation of breast abnormalities that are found with screening or diagnostic mammography
- Cardiac (Adult Echocardiography (AE), Pediatric Echocardiography (PE), and Fetal Echocardiography (FE) - evaluation of the anatomy and hemodynamics (blood flow) of the heart, it’s valves and related blood vessels, included in AE, PE, and FE.
- Musculoskeletal (MSK) - evaluation of joints, ligaments, muscles, and soft tissues.
- Pediatric Sonography (PS) - evaluation of the head, spine, chest, hips/joints and the male and female genitourinary system of the pediatric patient, etc.
- Obstetrics (OB)/Gynecology - evaluation of the female reproductive system to include fetal examinations.
- Vascular Technology (VT) - evaluation and analysis of the hemodynamics (blood flow) of peripheral, deep, superficial, and abdominal blood vessels
What’s it like being a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
Being a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer is a very rewarding career, with the opportunity to help and serve patients in a unique way by using specialized skills to see images that cannot be duplicated by any other diagnostic test. Sonographers are the eyes of the radiologist and physicians through sonography. A DMS technologist is given a lot of responsibility on a daily basis to accurately identify pathology in the body, report findings, and collaborate with providers to ensure the very best diagnostic care for our patients. It is a career that fosters professional growth and as a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, your opportunities are numerous.
Where Sonographers work and required education
Diagnostic medical sonographers typically work in one of four main areas: hospitals (state, local, and private), physician offices, medical and diagnostic imaging centers, and outpatient care centers (clinics), with the vast majority working full time or PRN in a hospital setting. Some may work during the evenings, weekends, on call or overnight, depending on the facility.
To become a DMS, formal training/education is required, such as an associate degree or postsecondary certificate. Many jobs require professional certification in at least one area of specialty and employers typically prefer graduates of programs to be registered by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS).
In order to receive professional certification, candidates must pass two exams. The first exam is the Sonography Principles & Instrumentation (SPI), which is a prerequisite for any of the other specialty exam and does not count as the ARDMS certification. The second is in one specialty area, usually Abdomen, OB/Gyn, or Vascular. Often DMS workers have more than one specialty certification.
Employment of diagnostic medical sonographers is projected to grow 12 percent* from 2019 to 2029, which is faster than the average for all occupations.