A sonographer is a healthcare professional who specialises in the use of ultrasonic imaging devices to produce diagnostic images, scans, videos or 3D volumes of anatomy and diagnostic data, frequently a radiographer but may be any healthcare professional with the appropriate training. The requirements for clinical practice vary greatly by country. Sonography requires specialised education and skills to acquire, view, analyze and optimize information in the image. Due to the high levels of decisional latitude and diagnostic input, sonographers have a high degree of responsibility in the diagnostic process. Many countries require medical sonographers to have professional certification. Sonographers have core knowledge in ultrasound physics, cross sectional anatomy, physiology and pathology.
Sonographer is the preferred term for the specialised healthcare professional who performs diagnostic medical sonography, or diagnostic ultrasound. The alternative term ultrasonographer is in much less common use. The terms ultrasound technologist and ultrasound technician are deprecated.
Training and licensing
The Australasian Sonographers Association (ASA) was formed in 1992 in response to the desire of sonographers across Australia for an organisation that represents and considers issues important to sonographers in the Australian healthcare environment. The ASA now has more than 5000 individual member sonographers from Australia and New Zealand, and about 30 corporate partners. The ASA has pledged to pursue high standards within the practice of medical sonography. The ASA has a structure of a Board of directors and multiple representative branches in all Australian states and New Zealand.
Australian sonographers must be accredited by the Australian Sonographers Accreditation Registry (ASAR). ASAR’s brief is to accredit and re-accredit on a regular basis, post-graduate ultrasound programs offered by Australian Universities, and to establish the criteria against which those programs and any other future Australian and New Zealand programs are to be judged. In addition a register of accredited medical sonographers (AMS) and accredited student sonographers (ASS) is maintained and their continuing professional development (CPD) activities monitored and recorded.
The Health Insurance Commissison in association with the Australasian Sonographers Accreditation Registry (ASAR) introduced in 2002 a program of accreditation and continuing professional education for sonographers. The ASAR recognises registration with the Australian Orthoptic Board as appropriate accreditation for orthoptists to undertake sonography in relation to ocular structures.
The vast majority of Canadian sonographers have received their education through an accredited sonography program. There are many programs available across the country and may include direct-entry programs for degrees, advanced diplomas and second discipline graduate certificate programs. Sonography Canada registers sonographers in three credentials: Generalist, Cardiac, and Vascular. To become registered, eligible candidates must successfully meet Sonography Canada's clinical (Canadian Clinical Skills Assessment-CCSA) and academic requirements. Sonography Canada credentialed sonographers must also document their continuing education by maintaining a minimum 40 continuing professional development (CPD) credits every three years.
The Nova Scotia Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (NSSDMS) is currently working with the Nova Scotia Association of Medical Radiation Technologists (NSAMRT) to add diagnostic ultrasound as a new discipline in the proposed college. This means that diagnostic sonography would become a self-regulated profession in Nova Scotia, along with radiography, nuclear medicine, magnetic resonance imaging and radiation therapy. The Department of Health is now considering their application; the appropriate act and associated regulations have been drafted, and the associations are aiming for approval at the spring 2012 session of the legislature.
In the UK sonographers are also responsible for the interpretation of the images and issue diagnostic reports. Sonographers in the UK are educated to a high level, training itself is delivered as a MSc/PGDip/PGCert by the universities and overseen by the Consortium for Accreditation of Sonographic Education (CASE), as training is delivered at post graduate level all sonographers must have a bachelor's degree or equivalent prior to undertaking this specialism, this means training can take a minimum of 4 years. There is currently no requirement for a sonographer to be state registered in the UK, although the majority are registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) as a radiographer. State registration of sonographers in their own right is being eagerly sought by the profession. However the HCPC has previously sought to require statutory registration of sonographers, a motion supported by a number of professional bodies and the HCPC was rejected by the Department of Health. The rationale for this rejection remains controversial however a voluntary register is currently maintained by the College of Radiographers.
Within the United Kingdom, sonographers are employed by hospitals within the National Health Service and by private companies offering healthcare services.
The profession is sub-divided in specialties such as cardiac, obstetrical, vascular, and general sonographers. General sonographers are registered in abdominal and/or obstetric and gynecologic sonography.
It may take around 1 1/2 years to get a degree in diagnostic medical sonography. In the United States the most widely accepted sonographic education is provided by CAAHEP/JRC-DMS accredited programs. There are two credentialing bodies in the United States for sonographers, the Cardiovascular Credentialing International (CCI) Established in 1968 and the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) Established in 1975. Both CCI and ARDMS have earned the prestigious ANSI-ISO 17024 accreditation for certifying bodies from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). Accreditation is granted through the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Recognition of ARDMS programs in providing credentials has also earned the ARDMS accreditation with the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). The NCCA is the accrediting arm of the National Organization for Competency Assurance (NOCA). Established in 1977 as a nonprofit organization, NOCA is a leader in setting quality standards for certifying organizations.
In 2009, New Mexico and Oregon became the first two states to require licensure of sonographers.
During their careers, 84% of sonographers report experiencing some form of work-related musculoskeletal pain due to scanning in compromised positions, incorrect gripping of the transducer, spending too much time manipulating the transducer on technically difficult exams such as obese or large pregnant patients and a lack of upper body fitness. Stretching protocols have been suggested to be a useful tool in reducing risk of musculoskeletal injury, pain and repetitive strain injury in sonographers.
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- Nova Scotia Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (NSSDMS)
- Nova Scotia Association of Medical Radiation Technologists (NSAMRT)
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- American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS)
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- Allwood, Richard; Basham, Graeme; Gregory, Peter (2018-09-06). "Stretching for sonographers". Sonography. 5 (3): 95–103. doi:10.1002/sono.12155. ISSN 2202-8323.