Student Profile: Diagnostic Medical Sonographer
Learn about a student’s experience training for a medical imaging career.
Student of Diagnostic Medical Sonography
University of Kansas Medical Center – Kansas City, KS
How did you become interested in medical imaging?
I was a professional horse trainer, and shifted to horse breeding at the age of 40. I discovered sonography (also known as ultrasound) through horse breeding. Sonography is used extensively there to determine when to inseminate, and then to look for pregnancy. I was fascinated with the ultrasound, and was always asking my vet questions.
How did you choose a school?
I took a short course in equine reproductive sonography at Texas A&M University, and started using the technology at the farm I managed. From there it was an easy transition to human medicine.
I was living in Kansas City, MO., so I chose the University of Kansas Medical Center. In a teaching hospital you’ll see many things, lots of pathology, which will help you as you’re learning.
I chose the full-time, 15-month ultrasound training program, with support from family and money made selling my horses when I changed careers. Some students work as X-ray techs on the weekends to support their schooling, which is wonderful, but I’m glad I didn’t have to.
What did you enjoy about your sonography program?
The diagnostic medical sonography program puts students into direct contact with patients early in their ultrasound training, with support from a certified sonographer. The professionals offer coaching to the newer students, and later backup and consultation as needed.
Working with an experienced mentor provided me with a safety net. You have that wonderful experience to guide you.
This system provides the equivalent of an internship, with opportunities to interact with patients directly and to collaborate with colleagues in a professional setting.
The teaching hospital setting provides exposure to a broad range of problems, so that students can actually see many of the things that we learn about in books. Through hands-on work and classes in anatomy, students learn what a normal scan looks like.
Learning to scan requires training the eyes to see many more shades of gray, which helps you understand what you’re seeing. At first when you scan you ask, ‘What am I looking at,’ and later you know what it is. If there’s a pathology you might not know the exact name of it, but you recognize that it’s not normal.
What was it like returning to school after many years of working?
As an older student and a career changer I [feel] more dedicated and more willing to stay home and study. My priority is school; I’m paying for it. It’s more dear to you when you’re writing the check every month.
What appeals to you about sonography as a career?
This is a career for people who enjoy change and care about people. It’s important to do something that you enjoy. If you’ve been around a medical setting and are looking for a way to advance, this is a good way to go. You’re going to have to work and you’re going to have to study, but the rewards are well worth it.