Sarah Leitzinger: Do you mean besides how amazing ultrasound is?! Seriously, it still boggles my mind that someone ever created this technology. The instructors were also proof that you truly can love what you do. Thirteen years later, and I am still amazed by ultrasound, and I still love my job. The enthusiasm the instructors have for this career field is contagious!
The instructors at South Hills really do a fantastic job of giving you the skills to build upon. The time spent scanning during class and throughout the summer break provided us with opportunities to learn the skills we needed to prepare to scan real-life patients.
The instructors put the extra time in to help you succeed, and they also stressed the importance of being open to receiving constructive criticism. As a student, you can take the instructors’ feedback and grow from it.
They also make you aware of how much the radiologists you work with in the field depend on you as a sonographer. You are their “eyes” and they count on you to provide them with the images they need to diagnose and treat their patients.
Through the program, I learned how important it is to see and consider the entire medical picture. It’s imperative that you evaluate the patient and his/her medical situation thoroughly, because sometimes what you expect to see isn’t seen, and you will find things you never expected to find.
Sarah: I particularly loved learning about OB (obstetrics) ultrasound. There is SO much to learn, and it is fascinating to see how a baby can grow and develop from a single cell. I am a general ultrasound tech, so I scan OB patients regularly, and I enjoy sharing some of that knowledge with the parents-to-be so they can appreciate what they have made!
Something else you learn in the DMS program is the physics behind ultrasound technology. Although I did not love this particular subject, knowing and understanding physics is a core strength of a good technician. This knowledge helps you learn and understand how to optimize your images which helps you to identify what you see on the screen.
Sarah: The DMS program requires hard work and dedication – don’t let the instructors’ smiling faces fool you; it’s not easy! You have to be ready to be involved, ask questions, study hard, and get your hands on a transducer as much as you can. You can’t float your way through this program and be successful.
A career in ultrasound also requires a compassionate, caring, and patient person. A lot of patients (and their families) are sick or scared and expecting the worst. Take the extra moment to listen to their concerns and offer help and assistance as best you can. Showing empathy and genuine concern can help them feel that they are well cared for.
Sarah: The instructors were able to tell us what to realistically expect from ourselves, from radiologists, and from patients. They were spot-on with all of it because they had been there themselves!
They even mirrored the way questions are worded on the board exams on our tests at South Hills, better preparing us for the registry exams that are required to become credentialed.
Sarah: An associate’s degree program doesn’t mean it’s a lesser program. While a four-year degree program involves many classes and a variety of choices, a two- or three-year program can offer a concentrated education, preparing you for a specialty career upon completion. Speaking solely about the DMS program, many students graduate with a job offer from their internship site! I graduated from South Hills knowing exactly what I wanted to do with my life.
Sarah: I believe the best advice is to be involved, ask questions, study hard, and get your hands on a transducer as much as you can. The more you practice scanning, the better you become at image optimization and identifying abnormalities; therefore, you are helping your patients and providing exceptional care.
The instructors truly care about you, and they want you to succeed. Take every opportunity they give you to practice scanning, and don’t hesitate to ask for help when needed – they are there for you!
Also, never become complacent. There is always more to learn and new things to see. The moment you think you know it all is the moment you have failed your radiologist and your patient. Treat every patient as if they are a member of your family; scan them as thoroughly as if you would your very first patient.
Do not fret and worry that you have to diagnose every abnormality you see. Your job is to identify and describe it and know when, where, and how to expand the scope of your study.
And lastly, don’t be afraid to put some pressure on that transducer – PUSH!