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Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (DMSs) are important health care professionals who direct high frequency sound waves (ultrasound) into areas of the patient's body to produce dynamic visual images of organs, tissues or blood flow inside the body, including fetuses. Since ultrasound does not expose patients to known hazards such as ionizing radiation or the injection of dyes, its use in medicine is growing rapidly, especially in the detection and treatment of heart disease, heart attack, and vascular disease which can lead to stroke. These ultrasound images can be videotaped, transmitted, or photographed for interpretation and diagnosis by a physician. Ultrasound is used to monitor pregnancies; assist in diagnosing heart, vascular, abdominal, pelvic, and brain disorders; and assisting in some medical procedures such as biopsies and placing drainage catheters.
Sonographers work directly with patients and some of their duties include obtaining and recording a patient's medical history, analyzing technical information, making recommendations to expand the scope of the procedure if necessary, and summarizing the technical findings to physicians in their diagnosis. Sonographers require an in-depth understanding of ultrasound physics, physiology, pathology, and anatomy, and work as part of a health care team that may include doctors, nurses, and other medical technologists.
Diagnostic medical sonographers may specialize in the following areas:
- obstetric and gynecologic sonography (images of the female reproductive system)
- abdominal sonography (images of the liver, kidneys, gallbladder, spleen, and pancreas)
- neurosonography (images of the brain and other parts of the nervous system)
- breast sonography
- vascular sonography or cardiac sonography
Diagnostic medical sonographers are also known as Health Care Technologists, Medical Sonographers, Medical Technologists, and Ultrasound Technologists.
Sonographers can live and work virtually anywhere in Alberta, as their skills are in demand in both urban and rural areas. Working in Alberta allows DMSs the chance work in some of the most beautiful landscapes across Alberta. They have the opportunity to work as a health team member, working closely with other medical technologists, health record technicians, nurses, physicians, and other health care professionals.
Diagnostic medical sonographers work at and are employed primarily by:
- Alberta Health Services
- health care clinics
They may also work in:
- physician offices
- diagnostic imaging centres
- private clinics
In each of these work settings, career advancement is available. Some DMSs go into teaching and train the next generation of sonographers. Others become involved in research and contribute to the worldwide advancement of medical and scientific knowledge. Advancement opportunities depend on ability, experience, and education.
If you would like more detailed information about working as a sonographer such as duties, working conditions, salaries, educational requirements, and personal characteristics, you can read the various career profile for Diagnostic Medical Sonographers on Alberta's occupational information website, OCCinfo.
You may also wish to review the occupational profiles in these other diagnostic imaging occupations:
In Alberta, diagnostic medical sonography is an unregulated profession. There is no mandated exam or registry. However, most employers require that sonographers be registered with the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) and/or the Canadian Association for Registered Diagnostic Ultrasound Professionals (CARDUP).
For more information regarding the registration processes with The American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) visit their registration information webpage.
To learn how to register with the Canadian Association for Registered Diagnostic Ultrasound Professionals (CARDUP), visit their registration information webpage.
In Alberta, Diagnostic Medical Sonographers work in unionized and non unionized environments. The private centres are non-unionized and the public centres (e.g. hospitals) are unionized. For information about current collective agreements in the public and not-for-profit sectors, see the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) website.
According to the 2009 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, diagnostic medical sonographers earned an average annual salary of $73,584, with the minimum rate of compensation of $31.41 per hour and the maximum rate of $53.42per hour.
Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses unrelated to production and other forms of compensation.
Alberta offers a couple of accredited programs in sonography. The following institutions offer diplomas in diagnostic medical sonography. These are quota programs so a much higher average may be required to gain admission.
- The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) in Edmonton offers a 28 consecutive month Diagnostic Medical Sonography diploma program.
- The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in Calgary offers a 26-month Diagnostic Medical Sonography diploma program.
For current information about programs, admission requirements and mature student admission policies, please check post-secondary calendars or websites.
Diagnostic sonographers must take continuing medical education courses and successfully pass qualifying examinations every few years in order maintain their certification with the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) and the Canadian Association of Registered Diagnostic Ultrasound Professionals (CARDUP).
The NAIT Sonography Testing Center was designed to provide ultrasound professionals an avenue to challenge the Canadian Association of Diagnostic Ultrasound Professionals (CARDUP) Clinical Skills Assessment (CSAT) for entry into the Canadian Registry.
Internationally educated diagnostic medical sonographers may have to undergo refresher or bridging programs (additional examination, testing, assessment, training, or education)
Alberta Diagnostic Sonographers Association (ADSA) is a professional association for Alberta Sonographers.
Alberta Learning and Information Service (ALIS) is the provincial gateway to help Albertans plan and achieve educational and career success! It provides information for career planning, post-secondary education and training, educational funding, job search, labour market trends, and workplace issues.
- EDinfo: Information about programs of study and distance learning programs offered by post-secondary educational institutions in Alberta.
- OCCinfo: Information about occupations (types of work) in a format called occupational profiles. There are more than 500 occupational profiles in OCCinfo. Each profile presents information about an occupation under the following headings: Duties; Working Conditions; Personal Characteristics; Educational Requirements; Employment and Advancement; Salary and Other Sources of Information.
American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (ARDMS) is an independent, non-profit organization that administers examinations and awards credentials in the areas of diagnostic medical sonography, diagnostic cardiac sonography, vascular interpretation and vascular technology.
Canadian Association of Registered Diagnostic Ultrasound Professionals (CARDUP) is committed to the establishment of bilingual written and practical examinations that reflect Canadian Diagnostic ultrasound standards and competencies.
Canadian Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonographers fosters excellence in patient care and professional interaction and promotes the highest level of professional standards of practice for sonographers in Canada.
Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA) is a labour union representing more than 14,000 paramedical technical, professional, and general support employees in the public and private health care sectors of Alberta.
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Date Updated: Tue, 08 Oct 2013 02:48:56