After graduating, I was so excited to begin my career as an Ultrasound Tech. Full of knowledge and raring to go, I was passionate about finding the ‘perfect’ job where I could begin making a real difference. While in school, I was devoted to my studies and had clear goals. However, once it came time to choose where to apply those skills, I have to admit I had no idea how to begin. Where should I work?
Ultrasound Technology is used in many areas of healthcare
Both large and small hospitals use Ultrasound Technology daily in the diagnosis and treatment of patients. Along with the Emergency Department patient who may need a stat (emergency) abdominal ultrasound, the Ultrasound Tech may also see patients from other areas of the hospital such as those in the ICU (Intensive Care Unit), Medical / Surgical (patients who have undergone surgical procedures ), and ECF (Extended Care Facilities similar to nursing home care). Scheduled ultrasounds are also performed on an outpatient basis.
OB-Gyn is the combined practice of pregnancy and delivery (obstetrics) with gynecology, the treatment of women’s reproductive areas including rectal and urinary health. Ultrasound technology is needed regularly in OB-Gyn practices. Prenatal ultrasounds are used to verify correct placement of the fetus, to check amniotic fluid levels and to rule out any possible birth defects. Because the ultrasound does not contain radiation as an x-ray does, expectant mothers feel at ease with the testing, and certain pregnancies may require several ultrasound images to be obtained throughout the pregnancy. Gynecologists use ultrasound images in the diagnosis of cancer, fibroids and other reproductive issues. Ultrasound is even used in Infertility Clinics as a tool to monitor ovulation.
There are many Specialty Centers that utilize Ultrasound Technology. Surgical practices use Ultrasound Technology to guide the Surgeon during procedures such as needle biopsies (removing a small amount of tissue for pathology). Echocardiography, obtaining an ultrasound of the heart, gives Cardiologists a two- or three dimensional image of the heart. Ultrasound images also allow the Cardiologist to see the blood flow, and any possible valve leaks. Even dental practices use Ultrasound Technology.
There are so many uses for Ultrasound Technology. How was I going to choose the perfect place to work? How was I supposed to figure out which was a good fit for me, and which wasn’t? To answer these questions, I began to picture what my day might be like working there. How far would I have to drive each day? What would my hours be? How many patients would I see? I soon recognized sharp differences in each type of practice such as pay, hours, and employee benefits.
Understanding the differences can help
Hospitals work in shifts, usually eight or twelve hours long. Because hospitals provide twenty-four hour care, nights and weekends must be worked by some personnel. Most hospitals reward these less-preferred shifts with a shift differential (paying a higher hourly wage). Hospitals employ a large group of people, which can make personal performance recognition a bit harder. Employees enjoy such ‘perks’ as on-site cafeteria, lounges, and even on-site workout facilities. Overtime can be obtained but may also be forced.
Practices such as Cardiology offices work ‘banker’s hours, typically 8-5 pm. Because practices typically employ a smaller group, this allows a strong team to form and rely on each other. There is less opportunity to obtain additional hours if needed. Working in a practice allows patients to become familiar, strengthening the ‘family’ feel to each practice. Employees enjoy weekends off as well as Holidays. Smaller practices allow for easier performance recognition.
I finally found the answer, and it was as simple as a phone call away. I began by contacting a large hospital in my area. I explained I was newly graduated and interested in possibly working in an Ultrasound Department of a hospital such as theirs. To my surprise, I was given an appointment the very next day.
Contact prospective employers in your area
I met with the Human Resource Department, who talked with me at length about my recent graduation. I was then given an extensive tour of the hospital. As we toured each department, employees greeted me warmly and talked about what they loved about working there. I was able to tour the Ultrasound Department, and learn how many employees worked there, what shifts they worked, and the primary types of patients seen. I was able to see firsthand the ‘perks’ of working in a large hospital, such as employee lounges, a large twenty-four hour cafeteria, even workout facilities for employee use. The tour was invaluable, and allowed me an inner glimpse into what my career would be like working there.
Encouraged, I began contacting other prospective employers. Some allowed me to ‘shadow’ an employee, following them throughout their duties. I learned so much about the different work environments, their structure and what my place in each might be as an Ultrasound Tech.
After I obtained the information I needed, I sat down and examined each prospective area of employment. It soon became apparent that, for me, a large hospital would be ideal. The fast-paced work environment as well as versatility of night shift work strongly appealed to me. Rather than applying to all Ultrasound Tech positions that were available, I was able to focus on areas where I believed I could truly shine – hospitals.
Focusing on several large hospitals in the area, I began the application process. After interviewing with several, I was quickly hired. I am proud to say I am an Ultrasound Tech at my hospital. My dream job makes me excited to go to work each and every day.
Consider these Factors
After obtaining your education, determine your priorities and preferences. Don’t be eager to grab the first high paying job. What if you chose a position that pays $3.00 more per hour but requires you to travel three times the distance? What if you obtain employment at a hospital but soon find yourself wishing you worked at a smaller Specialty Center instead?
There may be additional factors to take into consideration as well as pay. These include:
If you are interested in advancing in the Ultrasound field, will there be opportunities to do so? Or, will you be ‘locked’ into your position?
How often are employee reviews conducted? How is good / bad performance handled? What are the Employer’s policies on performance evaluations, advancement and pay increases?
Are insurance benefits important to you? If so, does the Employer provide full coverage, or will you have to pay a portion of the dues?
Do you anticipate going back to school? If so, what are the Employer’s policies on tuition reimbursement? Some Employers pay tuition up front, while others require the employee to pay. Once a passing grade is obtained, the employee is then reimbursed.
Salary / Hourly
What is the expected salary or hourly wage? What are the Employers’ policies on advancement, overtime, shift differential and Holiday pay?
Is it important for you to have set / scheduled hours? Or are you flexible if overtime is needed or forced? What are the Employer’s policies on trading shifts, picking up additional hours, or rotating Holidays?
I learned a great deal in my search for employment. By obtaining an inside view into a prospective work environment, I was able to really see where I might best be able to shine as an Ultrasound Tech. Examining my priorities allowed me to seek employment at those places I knew could be a good match for me as well as my goals.
The doors are wide open for you…