The Diagnostic Medical Sonography program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) (www.caahep.org; 1361 Park St., Clearwater, FL 33756; 727-210-2350) upon the recommendation of the Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (JRC-DMS).
The program offers enthusiastic, dedicated students a well-rounded education in the general learning concentration of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (DMS) (sonographic physics and instrumentation, abdominal and small parts, and obstetrics/gynecology).
The DMS program includes an education that provides the curriculum, resources, and environment necessary to become compassionate, responsible, and technically competent sonographers ready for employment in the field of sonography. The program's mission is in concert with the college's mission of service to all Georgians.
The program's mission is supported by an experienced, creative team of education staff, college administration, and student development services staff, RDMS certified sonographers, and medical personnel with expertise in various aspects of sonography. The faculty is committed to assisting the DMS student toward the greatest academic, personal, and professional potential through quality courses and clinical opportunities. The program includes an extensive array of didactic resources, up-to-date textbooks, and course requirements. Courses offer a variety of teaching methods for creative learning to address the various educational needs of the students. Didactic education and classroom laboratory experience is concurrent with clinical education experience, providing graduates with the skills and versatility needed to function in a variety of healthcare facilities that service diverse populations.
Sonographers typically work in healthcare facilities that pass stringent national cleanliness requirements. They work with diagnostic ultrasound imaging systems in darkened rooms, but they may also perform procedures at the bedside and during surgical procedures. Sonographers may be on their feet for long periods of time and may have to lift or turn disabled patients. Some sonographers work as contract employees and may travel to several healthcare facilities in an area. Similarly, some sonographers work with mobile imaging service providers and travel to patients and use mobile diagnostic imaging equipment to provide service in areas that otherwise would not have access to such services. Full-time sonographers work 40 hours a week, and many facilities now employ full-time sonographers for night and weekend hours. Some sonographers are on-call for emergency procedures and must be ready to report to report to work on short notice.
Nature of the Work
Diagnostic imaging embraces several different modalities that aid in the investigation of suspected disease processes and to diagnose pathologies. The most familiar are the x-ray and computed tomography (CT) that require the use of ionizing radiation. Sonography uses sound waves to generate images for assessment and diagnosis of various medical conditions. It is commonly associated with obstetrics and the use of sonographic imaging during pregnancy, but this technology has many other applications in the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions throughout the body.
Sonographers use special equipment to direct high frequency sound waves into areas of the patient's body. Sonographers operate the equipment, which collects reflected echoes and forms an image that may be videotaped, transmitted, or photographed for interpretation and diagnosis by a physician.
Sonographers begin by explaining the procedure to the patient, as well as recording the medical history, laboratory results, and other imaging test results pertinent to the examination. The patient is guided onto an imaging table and the sonographer selects appropriate equipment settings. Frequently, the sonographer will direct the patient to several different positions to optimize the images taken in the area of interest. A transducer is used to not only send sound waves into the body, but also to listen for echoes coming back from the different tissues within the body. A special ultrasonic gel is used to help transmission of sound waves into the body.
Viewing the screen during the scan, sonographers look for subtle visual cues that contrast healthy areas with unhealthy ones. They decide whether the images are satisfactory for diagnostic purposes and select which ones to store and show to the physician. Sonographers take measurements, calculate values, and analyze the results in preliminary findings for the physicians. This requires critical thinking skills.
In addition to working directly with patients, diagnostic medical sonographers keep patient records and adjust and maintain equipment. They also may prepare work schedules, evaluate equipment purchases, or manage a sonography or diagnostic imaging department.
Diagnostic Medical Sonography students at Athens Technical College become proficient using 2-dimensional, 3-dimensional, 4-dimensional, color Doppler, and spectral analysis using various sonographic imaging systems. As a general learning concentration Sonography program, the program at Athens Technical College emphasizes two specialty areas of sonography: obstetrics/gynecology and abdominal, small parts. Gynecological examinations are for imaging the female pelvis and reproductive system; whereas, obstetrics imaging involves evaluating the growth and health of a fetus during pregnancy. Abdominal procedures evaluate major organs and/or blood vessels (i.e., gall bladder, bile ducts, kidneys, liver, pancreas, spleen, aorta, vena cava, and thyroid).
Diagnostic medical sonographers held about 50,300 jobs nationally in 2008. About 59 percent of all sonographer jobs were in public and private hospitals. The remaining jobs were typically in offices of physicians, medical and diagnostic laboratories, and outpatient care centers. Employment of diagnostic medical sonographers is expected to increase by about 18 percent through 2018. The demand for certified sonographers is due to the increased variety of sonographic exams and the number of sonographers that will retire.
The median annual wage nationally of diagnostic medical sonographers was $61,980 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent of sonographers earned wages between $52,570 and $73,680 a year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $43,600, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $83,950. Median annual wages of diagnostic medical sonographers in May 2008 were $62,340 in offices of physicians and $61,870 in general medical and surgical hospitals.
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-2011 Edition (http://www.bls.gov/oco/)
Student Learning Outcomes
- Goal 1: Students will demonstrate patient care skills.
- Students will demonstrate the skills necessary to provide care for the patient's physical and mental status.
- Students will conduct ethical patient interviews and collect pertinent data necessary for evaluation.
- Students will adhere to HIPPAA regulations.
- Goal 2: Students will be clinically competent.
- Students will demonstrate the proper use of various scanning systems to produce diagnostic images following national protocols.
- Students will have an advanced knowledge of sectional anatomy in order to recognize normal anatomy and pathologic conditions.
- Students will use critical thinking skills while analyzing sonographic findings throughout the exam.
- Students will modify examinations based on procedural findings and patient condition.
- Students will minimize patient exposure to acoustic energy without compromising exam quality.
- Students will take the ARDMS certification examination in Sonography Physics and Instrumentation (SPI) prior to graduation and the abdominal and OB/GYN specialties within one year of graduation.
- Goal 3: Students will demonstrate communication skills.
- Students will demonstrate verbal and nonverbal communication skills.
- Students will demonstrate their ability to work as team players.
- Students will enter written patient data required for each examination according to the policies and procedures of the facility.
- Students will provide a written or oral summary of preliminary findings to the physician; the summary will be timely, accurate, concise, and complete.
- Goal 4: Students will demonstrate professionalism.
- Students will present a professional appearance.
- Students will demonstrate compassion and empathy.
- Students will be cognizant of a multicultural society.
- Students will demonstrate the personal and professional ethics and interpersonal skills that are expected in the workplace.
- Goal 5: Students will follow or have the ability to implement a Quality Assurance Plan.
- Students will strive to maintain a safe workplace environment.
- Students will provide written documentation of procedural rules and equipment maintenance as required by the facility.
The following technical standards and essential functions outline reasonable expectations of a student in the Diagnostic Medical Sonography program for the performance of common sonographic imaging functions. The DMS student must be able to apply the knowledge and skills necessary to function in a variety of classrooms, labs, and/or clinical situations while performing the essential competencies of sonographic imaging. These requirements apply for the purpose of admission and continuation in the program.
Essential Function: Observation
The ability to participate actively in all demonstrations, laboratory exercises, and clinical experiences in the professional program component and to assess and comprehend the condition of all clients assigned to him/her for examination, diagnosis, and treatment (such observation and information usually requires functional use of visual, auditory, and somatic sensations)
- Adequately view sonograms, including color distinctions
- Recognize and interpret facial expressions and body language
- Distinguish audible sounds from both the patient and the ultrasound equipment (Doppler)
- Recognize and respond to soft voices or voices under protective garb
Essential Function: Communication
Communicate effectively in English using verbal, non-verbal, and written formats with faculty, other students, clients, families, and all members of the healthcare team
- Elicit information and assess non-verbal information
- Transmit information to patients, staff, fellow students, and other members of the healthcare team
- Receive and comprehend, write, and interpret verbal and written communication in both the academic and clinical settings
Essential Function: Motor
Execute the movement and skills required for safe and effective care and emergency treatment
- Lift more than 50 pounds routinely
- Push and pull, bend, and stoop routinely
- Move, adjust, and position patients and equipment
- Have full use of hands, wrists, and shoulders
- Have the dexterity to manipulate transducer and control panel simultaneously
- Work while standing 80 percent of the time
Essential Function: Intellectual
Collect, interpret, and integrate information and make decisions
- Read and comprehend relevant information in textbooks, medical records, and professional literature
- Retain and apply information
- Measure, calculate, reason, analyze, and synthesize
- Organize and accurately perform the individual steps in a sonographic procedure in the proper sequence and within the required time frame
- Apply knowledge and learning to new situations and problem solving scenarios
Essential Function: Behavioral and Social Attributes
Possess the emotional health and stability required for full utilization of the student's intellectual abilities, the exercise of good judgment, the prompt completion of all academic and patient care responsibilities and the development of mature, sensitive, and effective relationships with clients and other members of the healthcare team; possess the ability to tolerate taxing workloads, function effectively under stress, adapt to changing environments, display flexibility, and learn to function in the face of uncertainties inherent in clinical settings with patients; possess compassion, integrity, concern for others, and motivation; possess the ability to demonstrate professional behaviors and a strong work ethic
- Manage heavy academic schedules and deadlines
- Perform in fast-paced clinical situations
- Remain calm and focused during instruction for and performance of sonographic exams
- Display flexibility and adaptability
- Demonstrate integrity, concern for others, compassion, appropriate interpersonal skills, interest, and motivation
- Comply with the Sonographer Code of Ethics, Clinical Practice Standards, and Scope of Practice as identified by the Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (www.sdms.org)
The Higher Education Act requires all colleges and universities to notify students and prospective students of all program costs for which they will be responsible. Students will be responsible for the following expenses each semester (unless otherwise noted):
- Tuition ($75 per credit hour)
- Registration fee ($39)
- Student activity fees ($30)
- Accident insurance fee ($6)
- Instructional and technology supply fee ($55)
- Program supply fees (Varies - see course descriptions for exact costs)
- Background check and drug screening (Approximately $100 per required check/screening)
- Basic Life Support for Healthcare Providers certification ($50)
- ARDMS abdomen examination ($200)
- ARDMS OB/GYN examination ($200)
- ARDMS Sonographic physics and instrumentation examination ($200)
- Hepatitis B ($200)
- Mumps, Measles, Rubella ($25)
- Varicella ($25)
- Tetanus ($25)
- Tuberculosis skin test ($25)
- Major medical insurance (Approximately $90 per month)
- Malpractice insurance ($11 per year)
- Physical examination (Approximately $100)
- Program supplies (Approximately $150)
- Textbooks (Approximately $2,200 for entire program)
- Uniforms (Approximately $150 for entire program)
These expenses are based on costs in effect at the time this catalog was published. Prices are subject to change.
If students withdraw from the program for any reason, they must follow the steps detailed under Life Sciences Programs Readmission. In addition, students seeking readmission will abide by all policies and procedures in place at the time of their request for readmission.
Only in the event that the program slots cannot be filled with Georgia residents who meet the minimum admissions criteria can out-of-state students be admitted to the Diagnostic Medical Sonography program.
Applicants must submit the following information to the Admissions Office:
- Completed and signed application for admission and a $20 nonrefundable application fee
- Official high school or GED transcripts and/or official college transcripts from all colleges attended in the past (see General Admission Requirements)
- Valid COMPASS, ASSET, SAT, or ACT test scores (see COMPASS and ASSET Placement Tests)
Diagnostic Medical Sonography Admission Requirements
The Diagnostic Medical Sonography program uses a competitive admission process to select students. Program faculty and the Admissions Office staff designed the process to ensure maximum opportunity for student success in the program and for taking national certification (ARDMS) examinations. Prospective students may gain admission to the college initially as Healthcare Science program students/applicants to Diagnostic Medical Sonography in order to complete any learning support courses and required general education and health core courses.
Applicants not selected for the program may reapply during subsequent admission intake periods. There is no waiting list between intake periods; applicants must reapply for admission to the program prior to the file completion date of subsequent intake periods for each attempt at entry into the Diagnostic Medical Sonography program. Applicants who are on academic probation or are academically dismissed from the college as of the application deadline will not be considered for admission. The number of clinical sites and course sequencing limit the number of applicants admitted to the program. Completion of the general education and health core courses does not guarantee acceptance into the program. College policies dictate how course credit is transferred or accepted (see Credit by Transfer).
Applicants must attend a mandatory program information/advisement session prior to making a career decision but before the admissions application deadline. Applicants who do not attend an information/advisement session will not be considered in the selection process. In addition to submitting the documentation outlined in the section on General Admission Requirements, DMS applicants must submit the following to the Admissions Office September 1, 2013, to gain consideration for admission to the Spring Semester 2014 class:
- Documentation of attendance at the mandatory DMS program information/advisement session
- Signed General Technical Requirements Information and Acknowledgment Form (which will be provided to applicants during the mandatory information/advisement session)
- Transcripts that document the completion of all prerequisite DMS general education and health core courses
- Scores from the Health Occupations Basic Entrance Test V (HOBET V) (students should complete the majority of prerequisite courses prior to taking the HOBET V) (see Selective Admission Examination)
- Documentation of the completion of a minimum of two hours as a volunteer model/observer in the sonography classroom/laboratory (semesters and hours of availability TBA)
- Documentation of the completion of a minimum of 16 hours of observation in professional ultrasound departments/facilities that employ RDMS sonographers (blank DMS observation forms are available from the Admissions Office, at the mandatory DMS information/advising session, and online at www.athenstech.edu/oldcatalog/programsofstudy.cfm - select Selective Admissions Forms))
- Completed and signed intent form (blank DMS intent forms are available from the Admissions Office, at the mandatory DMS information/advising session, and online at www.athenstech.edu/oldcatalog/programsofstudy.cfm - select Selective Admissions Forms))
Although applicants must have a minimum grade of C in all prerequisite courses, it should be noted that the prerequisite grade point average is one of the main criteria for selection in life science programs, so grades of C are typically not competitive. The Admissions selection committee will invite a group of the highest applicants to participate in a personal interview process.
It is highly recommended that the following courses have been taken within the last five years; BIOL 2113 and BIOL 2113L (Anatomy and Physiology I), BIOL 2114 and BIOL 2114L (Anatomy and Physiology II), and MATH 1111 (College Algebra). They must complete these courses prior to the application deadline date.
Students who document the completion of an accredited two-year allied health program that is patient-care related may exempt ALHS 1090 (Medical Terminology for Allied Health Science). Students who document the completion of a two-year accredited postsecondary program in Radiography can exempt PHYS 1110 and PHYS 1110L (Conceptual Physics).
Students admitted to the program must submit the following documents to the program chair prior to beginning the DMS coursework:
- Completed Diagnostic Medical Sonography health form, which includes hepatitis screen results and documentation of immunity to rubella, measles, and tetanus (blank forms are available from the program chair following acceptance to the program)
- Verification of major medical insurance and malpractice insurance (see Malpractice Insurance)
- Verification of current certification in Basic Life Support for healthcare Providers prior to the first DMS class take the ATC course offered by Paramedic during the first two weeks of class.
- A signed document acknowledging that the commission of a felony before or during their enrollment in this program may prevent graduates from taking the ARDMS certification exam to become a certified diagnostic medical sonographer and that they are required to complete drug testing and/or background checks at their own expense prior to participating in internships, practicums, or clinical activities at certain host sites for these activities (see Drug Testing/Background Checks) (blank documents are available from the program chair or the Admissions Office or online at www.athenstech.edu/oldcatalog/programsofstudy.cfm - select Selective Admissions Forms)