What is the job of a cardiac sonographer?
Cardiac sonographers, also referred to as echocardiographers, take ultrasounds specific to the heart. They specifically look at the heart vessels, chambers, and valves, as well as how well the heart muscles contact. These professionals perform ultrasounds on patients both while they’re resting or immediately following exercise on a treadmill. Ultrasounds performed during or immediately following physical exertion show whether the patient’s heart is optimally functioning. Cardiac sonographers also initiate IVs in order to administer medication to patients. The medication is typically administered to patients who cannot walk to increase their heart rate as though they were exercising. Learn more about cardiac sonographer training.
There are a variety of specific tests a cardiac sonographer can perform on a patient.
One test they can perform is a transthorasic echocardiogram (TTE), which involves placing a transducer on the outside of the body, over the heart, in order to obtain an image of the chest cavity. Anytime a clearer picture is needed, a transesophageal
Also, Cardiac sonographers can also administer a bubble study. This study involves agitating a fluid through two syringes and then injecting it into a vein. The purpose of this procedure is to determine if the bubbles created travel across the septum of the heart. This procedure can determine abnormal findings such as the presence of an ASD (atrial septal defect) or PFO (patent foramen ovale). Blood should not be able to move from one atrium to the other without traveling through the normal circulation, in other words not across the septal wall. A bubble study is not a separate “procedure” but can be part of either a TTE or a TEE.
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In addition to these procedures, cardiac sonographers sometimes need to go into the operating room for heart surgery, especially when the surgery involves the heart valves. Due to needing to maintain the sterile field, when patients are having valve surgery a transducer cannot be used on the chest. A probe is used in this case to image the heart valves. In some situations the anesthesiologist performs the cardiac ultrasound in the operating room and in other situations the cardiac sonographer will handle the manipulation of the probe to obtain the images.
What types of patients does a cardiac sonographer see?
Cardiac sonographers see a variety of types of patients. Some common patients include: newborn babies and pediatric patients with congenital heart defects, individuals experiencing chest pain, patients having fainting spells, patients with disease of the heart muscle (cardiomyopathy), and those with heart murmurs.
Cardiac Sonographer Jobs
What types of employment settings do cardiac sonographers work?
Cardiac sonographers have a wide variety of employment opportunities available to them. The most common settings are cardiologists’ offices and hospitals. In hospital settings, cardiac sonographers are considered to be part of the non-invasive cardiology department, along with EKG Techs and cardiac rehab personnel. There are also mobile echo companies that contract with physician offices, hospitals or clinics and employ cardiac sonographers to travel to various locations. These locations may not have the volume to employ a cardiac sonographer daily so they contract through a mobile company. Mobile companies that hire sonographers typically provide benefits. In addition to mobile companies, traveler positions are also available through travel companies that offer short-term contracts for 3-6 months or longer depending on the need. Quite often in addition to a very nice salary, echo sonographers working for traveler companies have their expenses paid as well. These people are able to travel to all parts of the US and abroad if they have the proper credentials. Oftentimes traveler companies are needed because an area has a shortage of cardiac sonographers and they are not required to pay benefits for those hired in these traveling positions.
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What other healthcare professionals do cardiac sonographers work with?
What kind of equipment is used in this field?
Ultrasound machines are used in this field to create echocardiogram images. Ultrasound machines are large devices, typically wheeled on a cart. Various transducers, commonly referred to as “wands” are also used in this field to obtain images. For cardiac ultrasounds performed during a stress test, a treadmill is used but the EKG Tech operates that machine.
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What steps are needed to become a cardiac sonographer?
- Enroll in an accredited associate’s or bachelor’s degree cardiac sonographer program.
- Upon graduating from a cardiac sonography program, sit for the CCI or ARDMS registration exams.
- Become licensed if your state requires a license to practice (sometimes this is just a matter of submitting paperwork and paying fees and other times there is an exam involved).
- Find a job in this rewarding field. Maintain the necessary continuing education units to renew your registration every three years.
Cardiac Sonographer Program
What kind of a degree or education is required for a job in this field?
The most common level of education completed by cardiac sonographers is an associate’s degree. There are also four-year bachelor’s degree programs in this field, which may increase one’s marketability. Typically the first year of a cardiac sonography associate’s degree program involves didactic studies, focusing on core courses, and the second year offers more specialized instruction, including clinical rotations. The specialized instruction is typically offered in cardiac sonography, vascular sonography, or invasive cardiovascular technology depending on one’s area of interest. Some sonography programs require applicants to have graduated from a radiologic technologist program before they’re accepted.
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What kind of registration is required to work as a cardiac sonographer?
Registry level credentials are offered for cardiac sonographers through two separate organizations: the American Registry for
Is state licensure a requirement for this field?
In addition to the national registry, some states require cardiac sonographers to obtain a license. In other states, although a license and registry are not required, employers prefer to hire those who have a registry credential. Certain states have adopted rules for Medicare coverage that require sonographers and other medical professionals be credentialed in order to pay the maximum rate for a procedure. For them this is assurance that the sonographer has the necessary fundamental knowledge to accurately perform their job duties.
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What are the continuing education requirements for this field?
The continuing education credits for those with a RDCS credential are 30 per every three-year renewal period. Those with the RCS credential are required to earn 36 credits in three years.
Cardiac Sonographer Schools
Why should I consider pursing an education in cardiac sonography?
As part of the noninvasive diagnostic component of cardiology teams, cardiac sonographers use ultrasound technology in a number of different capacities to assess the health of the heart and related ventricles, chambers, and valves. As such, the cardiac sonographer training necessary to prepare graduates for this vitally important work is comprehensive and thorough. Although cardiac sonographers are also known by two other titles, echocardiographer and cardiac ultrasound technologist, these monikers describe the same profession and denote the same level of training and expertise in cardiovascular anatomy and function.
As heart disease has taken the lead as the number one cause of death in the United States, people have become acutely aware of the need to take preventative steps. This has made noninvasive diagnostic imaging of the cardiovascular system an extremely common
What degrees are available specific to cardiac sonography?
Schools that teach the intricacies of this specialized form of diagnostic medical sonography offer a range of programs. Certificate programs have the benefit of preparing graduates for the workforce in as few as twelve months, while some students opt for the prestige and advanced erudition that comes from investing four years in a bachelor’s program. Most; however, pursue two-year associate degree programs as these meet the educational expectations of most prospective employers.
In addition to the fact that associate’s degree programs in cardiac sonography meet the accreditation requirements set by the Commission of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), they also allow graduates to achieve the standards set by the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography, the national certifying agency specific to this profession.
What courses can I expect from cardiac sonography schools?
There are two fundamental components to cardiac sonography as a profession, and by extension the training programs that prepare graduates for a career in cardiovascular diagnostic imaging: Full knowledge of the human cardiovascular system as a machine, and full proficiency in the use of ultrasound medical imaging equipment.
Students of cardiac sonography schools must first become exceedingly familiar with the anatomy and proper function of the heart and its related vascular system. This is typically the focus of the first year of an associate’s degree program. Students can expect to spend a significant portion of the first part of their academic careers learning the particulars of cardiovascular anatomy, physiology, and function. Didactic training will also familiarize students with issues specific to patient care and bedside manner, as well as medical ethics.
What are the technical aspects of cardiac sonography programs?
Next comes the study and practice of instrumentation, or the use of ultrasound diagnostic imaging equipment, which makes use of high-frequency sound waves to create an image without the need to implement more invasive procedures. Associate’s degree programs offered by cardiac sonography schools are designed to prepare graduates for this profession by assuring they have a full mastery of medical diagnostic ultrasound technology. Cardiac sonographer jobs are all about operating ultrasound equipment; so aspiring students can expect technical training in the function and operation of some of the most advanced medical imaging equipment in existence.
Cardiac Sonographer Salary
Cardiac Sonographer Salary
Also known as echocardiographers, people in these roles may be responsible for taking images of a patient's heart. They may also work with children in order to diagnose cardiac problems early.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov) the median annual wage for this position is a little above the median annual wage for all occupations. Salary may depend on education and geographic location.
|Job Title||Bottom 10% Annual Wage||Annual Median Wage||Top 10% Annual Wage|
|Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians-U.S.||$28,680||$55,270||$90,760|
Is it difficult to find a job in this field?
If you are interested in pursuing this career you may need to earn an associate or bachelor's degree to qualify for an entry-level position. Bls.gov reports that the career is supposed grow faster than the average for all occupations from 2012 through 2022. Like many careers in health care it is expected to grow as the Baby Boomer generation reaches retirement age and requires more services.
Is there room for advancement in this field?
According to the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) there are different ways to pursue career advancement. With work experience and the proper degree you may be able to become a lead sonographer or an ultrasound department director. You might also be able to work in equipment manufacturing, sales, or as a consultant.
Are there any licensing requirements for this field?
Bls.gov says that a few states may require cardiac sonographers to earn a license, but for most positions a professional certificate is enough. Credentials may be earned through the ARDMS by passing examinations.
Diagnostic Medical Sonographers and Cardiovascular Technologists and Technicians, Including Vascular Technologists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012,
Career Center, American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography,
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