Cardiac Sonographer Job Description
Cardiac sonographers provide patient and doctor support by using ultrasound imaging technologies to aid in diagnosing and treating cardiac conditions. This is a highly technical role requiring extensive training on setting up and using advanced medical imaging devices. Cardiac sonographers typically work directly with patients, so they should have strong patient care skills and excellent bedside manner to explain procedures and walk patients through diagnostic imaging processes.
Although cardiac sonographers do not actually diagnose patients, they play a central role in detecting issues related to blood flow and heart malfunctions, supporting physicians as they develop diagnoses and design patient treatment plans.
Cardiac Sonographer Duties and Responsibilities
Based on job postings that we analyzed, most cardiac sonographers share several core duties:
Conduct Medical Imaging Procedures
The central role of a cardiac sonographer is utilizing medical imaging technology such as ultrasounds and echocardiograms to capture images of patients’ hearts and vascular function using high-frequency sound waves. These images typically measure heart function, ranging from chamber sizes within the patient’s heart to the overall flow of blood and blockages within the patient’s cardiovascular system.
Cardiac sonographers also inspect their images and select which ones to save based on image clarity and a variety of other factors. Typically, a cardiac sonographer captures a number of images so that they can select the ones that provide the clearest look at the patient’s cardiac function. The cardiac sonographer may ultimately decide to take a second set of images if they determine that too many from one set are unusable.
Support Diagnostic Procedures
While cardiac sonographers do not actually diagnose patients, many play a vital role in assisting physicians as they develop a diagnosis. This aspect of the role can involve reviewing images with doctors and pointing out abnormalities and areas that show problems with cardiac function. Physicians may also request additional images if they want to focus on one specific area within the patient’s cardiovascular system.
Answer Patient Questions
Because cardiac sonographers tend to work directly with patients, they also frequently need to answer patient questions about procedures and equipment prior to starting the imaging process. Additionally, cardiac sonographers may act as liaisons between patients and doctors, asking questions on the patient’s behalf and providing vital information and answers from physicians. This part of the job requires patience, compassion, and excellent bedside manner.
Cardiac sonographers also ensure that their equipment remains functional and reliable by following proper setup and maintenance procedures before, during, and after the imaging procedure. This includes calibrating ultrasound and echocardiogram machines and reporting any imaging issues to supervisors so that they can be addressed. Cardiac sonographers also follow proper storage procedures to prevent damage to their equipment.
Cardiac Sonographer Skills and Qualifications
Cardiac sonographers operate ultrasound equipment to support patient health and diagnosis. Workers in this role typically have an associate’s degree from an accredited program and the following skills:
- Technology skills – cardiac sonographers are primarily technicians and should be experts in safely and accurately utilizing ultrasound and imaging tools to examine patients and support diagnosis
- Bedside manner – in this role, cardiac sonographers work directly with patients to perform and explain procedures, so they should have excellent bedside manner and patient service skills
- Team collaboration – cardiac sonographers interact with doctors and other technicians, so they need strong teamwork skills and the ability to effectively coordinate diagnostic and treatment activities
- Attention to detail – this position also requires focus and attention to detail to ensure that readings are taken correctly and clearly and that equipment is properly set up and calibrated
- Communication skills – written and verbal communication are both essential in this role, since cardiac sonographers prepare reports and communicate with both doctors and patients
Tools of the Trade
Cardiac sonographers typically work in medical office settings and should be familiar with key technologies including:
- Medical imaging equipment
Cardiac Sonographer Education and Training
Most cardiac sonographers have at least an associate’s degree in the field, although it is possible to begin employment after a one-year certification period offered through some colleges and hospitals. Almost all workers in this role also have a license or certification, which is typically obtained through an accredited postsecondary program followed by an examination. There are few opportunities for on-the-job training in this role, since programs that prepare students for careers in this field typically focus on training and career preparation.
Cardiac Sonographer Salary and Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that diagnostic medical sonographers and cardiovascular technologists and technicians, a category that includes cardiac sonographers, earn a median annual salary of $65,620. The highest-paid 10 percent of diagnostic sonographers earn more than $99,840 per year, while the lowest-paid 10 percent earn less than $50,760.
The BLS expects employment in this field to grow at a much faster-than-average rate of 23 percent through 2026 to meet the medical needs of the baby-boomer generation.
We searched the web and found many resources and professional organizations if you’d like to learn more about a career as a cardiac sonographer:
Society of Diagnostic Medical Sonography – cardiac sonographers can join the SDMS to access educational and development resources, get answers from their peers, and attend the organization’s annual conference
Clinical Ultrasound: A Pocket Manual – this reference guide provides on-hand information that cardiac sonographers need to successfully support patients and doctors
Society for Vascular Ultrasound – SVU is the only professional organization specifically focused on vascular ultrasound and sonography and publishes industry news and educational materials
How to Do an Echo Exam (Echocardiography Illustrated) – Bernard E. Bulwer’s illustrated guide provides step-by-step guidance for conducting vascular ultrasound and sonography examinations to support heart patients
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