Blackhawk Technical College Diagnostic Medical Sonography/Vascular Technology Program Fast Facts & Frequently Asked Questions

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1 Blackhawk Technical College Diagnostic Medical Sonography/Vascular Technology Program Fast Facts & Frequently Asked Questions Diagnostic Medical Sonography (DMS), commonly called ultrasound, is a diagnostic medical procedure that uses high frequency sound waves to produce medical images of organs, tissues, or blood flow inside the body. The profession of diagnostic medical sonography includes general sonography, cardiac sonography, vascular technology, and various subspecialties. The profession requires critical thinking and good judgment to provide appropriate health care services. Sonographers/vascular technologists are highly skilled professionals qualified by education to provide patient services using diagnostic techniques under the supervision of a physician. Q. Where do sonographers work? A. Sonographers are employed by hospital, imaging centers and private physician offices. New graduates will be employed primarily in the hospital setting. Q. What are the duties of a sonographer? A. A sonographer: Performs procedures to obtain diagnostic images to be read by a physician. Obtains and record accurate patient history Analyzes technical information Provides quality patient care Works as part of the health care team Q. What is a typical day in the life of a sonographer? A. A sonographer usually works an eight-hour shift and during that time completes ultrasound scans along with required paperwork and documentation. This involves interaction with patients, physicians and other health care professionals. The sonographer provides quality patient care. Ultrasound cases can be added on to the schedule each day, and then sonographers will be required to work additional hours. Schedule changes play a role in the stressful demands of the career. Q. Part of the sonography career includes being on call. What does that mean? A. Depending upon the facility, sonographers will be required to carry a pager and be called back in to the department after hours, weekends, and holidays. For example if your shift is over at 4:30 pm, you could drive home and be paged to return back to the hospital at 9 pm, return home to sleep and be paged again at 3 am to return to the hospital and then you are still required to be at work at 8 am. Q. What role do sonographers play in patient care? A. Sonographers must take care of the patient while in the department. The sonographer may deal with patient issues such as vomiting, bleeding etc. Q. Do sonographers deal with needles, blood, and/or bodily fluids? A. Yes, sonographers are patient care givers and indeed deal with all these items and also go to the ER, ICU, and OR. Q. What is the salary range for sonographers?

2 A. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2010 Diagnostic Medical Sonographers earned an average of $64,440 or $30.95 an hour. Those with more on the job experience and higher job positions can earn up to $88,490 yearly. Q. What is the job outlook for sonographers? A. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of diagnostic medical sonographers is expected to grow by 44% between , much faster than the average for all occupations. As ultrasound technology evolves, it will become a more common method used to assist in diagnosing medical conditions, favored over more invasive procedures. PROGRAM MISSION The mission of the Blackhawk Technical College Associate Degree Diagnostic Medical Sonography/Vascular Technology Program is to prepare competent entry-level general sonographers and entry-level vascular technologists in the cognitive (knowledge), psychomotor (skills), and affective (behavior) learning domains. The didactic and clinical education, as well as the critical thinking framework presented to the students will prepare them to apply for the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography examinations in Abdomen, Obstetrical/Gynecological and Vascular Technology, as well as their SPI examination. Q. Is the DMS program at BTC accredited? A. Yes, BTC s DMS program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Check out the CAAHEP web site Q. What specialty areas of sonography does the program offer? A. There are several areas of specialization in the field of sonography; BTC is CAAHEP-accredited for the following specialty options: General sonography Abdominal: sonographic evaluation of the organs of the abdominal cavity (i.e. liver, spleen, kidney, pancreas, and aorta), blood vessels, and superficial structures Obstetrics/Gynecology: sonographic evaluation of the female reproductive system and pelvic cavity (i.e. uterus, ovaries, and pregnancy) Vascular: sonographic evaluation and analysis of the blood flow of peripheral, cerebral, and abdominal blood vessels (i.e. carotid arteries, deep leg veins, and renal arteries) Q. What student skills enhance student success in the DMS program? An individual knowledgeable about sonography, either from reading or observing, who knows why she/he wants to enter the profession. An enthusiastic, motivated individual who desires to maintain high standards for didactic and clinical performance. A person whose transcripts reflect academic excellence in science classes as well as related courses. A person who is motivated to take initiative, be a leader, and maintain high standards. A person who is able to critically think and process didactic information into clinical situations. An individual who is responsible for their actions and takes ownership of their education. Q. What physical abilities must I posses? A. Entrance and completion of this program signifies that the candidate is prepared to practice in the sonography profession. The candidate must be prepared to work in the standing position, do frequent walking, lift and transfer patients, communicate effectively, perform with both hands, and

3 discriminate in color, depth, and temperature. For more information on this, please consult the Sonography Program Handbook. Q. Should I job shadow in the field of general sonography before applying to the program? A. This is an excellent idea and we do recommend it. By doing this, the student is exposed to what the real life situation in the ultrasound department is, and what sonography really entails. This is a great way to help a student decide if this is really the field and the fit for them career-wise. ADMISSION Apply for admission to the college. Once you have been admitted to BTC you will meet with a counselor/advisor to review your transcripts and prepare your educational plan. There are several prerequisites for the DMS core classes which must be completed. Q. How do I know if BTC has my transcripts and they are current? A. It is the responsibility of the student to make sure all information is current and correct with BTC. Contact student services to verify all information. Q. Why does it matter when I apply for the DMS program? A. In the event of a tie during petitioning, the student who has the oldest date of application will be given the seat over an applicant with equal points. Q. Can having a past felony conviction affect my qualifications for the program and a career in sonography? A. Criminal background checks are required for attendance at the clinical sites. If you have ever been convicted of a felony, then you may not be able to attend clinical education. If you are not able to attend required clinical education sites you would not successfully complete the program. In addition, you may not be allowed to sit for the ARDMS national certification registry exams. This means that you can never become registered and thus will not be able to practice sonography. If you have ever been convicted of a felony then you are advised to contact the ARDMS and get this issue resolved prior to applying for acceptance into this program. For more information go to Q. I have received my letter of acceptance from BTC as a pre-clinical sonography student. What happens now? A. When students apply to the college they indicate which program of study they wish to pursue. As a pre-clinical sonography student you are ready to begin taking any courses still needed to meet the petitioning requirements for the program and your general education courses that are listed in the sonography program curriculum. These general education classes will apply to your degree and earn you points towards the selective admissions point count. There is a separate process for admission into the DMS Program. Sonography core classes are only taken after students are accepted into the program. Q. Is the program difficult? A. Learning ultrasound is much harder than most people think. There is a tremendous amount of material to cover in a minimal amount of time. Learning ultrasound requires extensive study of ultrasound physics and instrumentation as well as anatomy, physiology, typical sonographic appearances, and pathophysiology of the abdomen, pelvis, superficial structures, and fetus. A tremendous amount of time outside of class is required for reading and studying. Learning to "see"

4 anatomy and pathology on ultrasound is challenging as well. Ultrasound is a skill that requires considerable critical thinking and practice. PREREQUISITES You must provide successful completion of five general education classes along with documentation of successful completion of a patient care training program to petition for core classes. The five general education classes are: Survey of Physics (or radiography physics) Written Communication Medical Terminology General A&P Intermediate Algebra (or upper-level college mathematics course) Though not a complete list, the following are acceptable training programs: Radiography Physical Therapist Assistant Paramedic Respiratory Therapist Assistant Registered Nurse Occupational Therapist Assistant Licensed Practical Nurse Nursing Assistant Though not a complete list, the following DO NOT satisfy the patient training requirement: Surgical Technician Chiropractic Radiographer Dental Assistant Dental Hygienist EKG Technician Health Unit Coordinator EMT (First Responder) EEG Technician Medical Assistant Sleep Study Technician Clinical Lab Technician Laboratory Technician Phlebotomy Assistant PETITIONING Petition for entry into the DMS Core Clinical Courses. You must first be admitted to the college before you can petition. After admission to the college, students interested in beginning the core courses in the DMS program must petition during specified petition dates. All students MUST attend a petition information meeting for the year petitioning. Students will not be eligible to petition unless they have attended a meeting. The meetings will highlight the new DMS selection process and will be conducted by DMS and Student Services staff. Q. I can see the Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program is available at BTC, but I can t register for classes. A. BTC sonography core classes are admittance by acceptance. An interested student has to meet the entrance requirements and petition in order to attend. Q. What happens in the event of a tie breaker with petitioning? A. The college looks at the oldest date of application and will offer that student the seat in the program.

5 Q. Why do you give additional points in the selective admissions process for radiographers? A. It makes sense that those students who have had completed radiography training may have an advantage in the medical imaging program over those who have no experience. Q. What is spatial ability and what does it have to do with ultrasound? A. Spatial ability is the ability to process and understand physical relationship among objects. Ultrasound is not like other medical imaging tests. It is solely dependent upon the technologist to obtain the images and it can only capture a small area at a time and submit a series of images to complete the scan. Q. Why do you give additional points for a higher score on the spatial ability testing? A. Students with greater spatial abilities have been shown to score higher on scanning proficiency testing. Q. What can be done to improve spatial ability? A. Playing video games, working puzzles and other similar activities can encourage spatial ability development. For practice, search online for spatial ability practice tests and you will find various media to review. Q. Can the DMS program be completed part time? A. No, a full time commitment is required. Q. Do you offer weekend or night classes for sonography? A. No. This program is a full-time day program. Monday - Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a break for lunch. Q. Do you offer online courses for sonography? A. Yes, two but only during the first summer semester. Almost all of our courses are offered with hands-on learning within the classroom and lab settings not easily replicated through online learning. Q. How many applications do you receive each year? A. The program has had up to 24 in one petitioning period. The actual number can vary each year. Q. How many DMS students will be in each cohort? A. As many as 8 students will start each summer semester. Q. Why can t more students be accepted into the program? A. Medical Sonography is a unique learning experience that requires one-on-one clinical instructor training with every student. With the current number of clinical instructors and the time needed with each student we cannot accept more than eight students. We have a limited number of clinical sites, some of which could be over 40 miles away from Central Campus. To meet these requirements, we cannot accept larger numbers of students into the program. Q. Where is the DMS program located? A. The DMS program class and lab are at the Central Campus. Q. Where are the DMS clinicals located?

6 A. The DMS clinicals are located in Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois. Faculty assigns you to an imaging facility for specific learning outcomes; students do not get to choose locations. Students change clinical sites each semester. Sites could be over 40 miles from BTC Central Campus. (As you plan your finances for the program, please keep in mind the cost of gas and auto expenses as you are required to drive to the sites for your clinical rotation.) Q. Is there any childcare at BTC or the clinical sites? A. No, you need to have reliable childcare and also a backup plans as contingencies. Clinical education is treated like employment. Q. How long is the DMS Program? A. It is 6 semesters which is about 24 months. Q. I already have an Associate s Degree (or higher). Can I finish the certificate program in less than 6 semesters? A. No. The class load may be lighter for you, but it does not shorten the program Q. Can I work full-time or part-time while taking this program? A. The sonography tracks are very comprehensive and intense professional programs. We do not recommend that you attempt to work full-time during this program to assure optimal success. Q. What kind a degree will I receive when I am done with the curriculum for BTC s sonography program? A. After successful completion of the 2 years of required curriculum, students will receive an AS degree in Diagnostic Medical Sonography/Vascular Technology. Q. If I decide to continue my education, are there bachelor degree programs available in this field? A. Yes, there are bachelor and master degree opportunities. Q. Is there a national or state certification or credentialing examination that is required after graduation in order to be employed? A. Yes, you will be hired with a stipulation that you are required to pass the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) credentialing exams. You will need to first pass Sonography Principles and Instrumentation, and then the specialty exams Abdomen, and Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Vascular Technology. Most facilities allow up to one year to pass these exams. Each exam costs $250 and is not included in the program cost (it is an out of pocket expense). Check out the ARDMS web site Q. How do I get more information about the DMS Program? A. The BTC website (blackhawk.edu) has the program information and application. Q. I have read the DMS program information but I have more questions. Who can I contact? A. Contact BTC DMS Program Director at or for additional information.

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