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The CARE Bill goes to Washington

By Aimee Hosler,

As legislation that would set minimum ultrasound technician training requirements hits the House floor, techs mull over just one more reason to consider certification.

The CARE Bill meets Congress

On June 2, 2011, Representative Ed Whitfield (R-KY) introduced the Consistency, Accuracy, Responsibility and Excellence in Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy Bill, or CARE Bill, to the House of Representatives. Spearheaded by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), the CARE Bill aims to set minimum education and certification guidelines for radiologic and diagnostic imaging professionals, including ultrasound technicians. Currently only two states--New Mexico and Oregon--require that ultrasound technicians earn certification.

The concept of national ultrasound technician requirements is not new: the ASRT first launched its campaign in 1998 as an effort to amend the Consumer-Patient Radiation Health and Safety Act of 1981. Today's CARE Bill is backed by 26 radiologic science organizations forming the Alliance for Quality Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy, and the CARE Bill's Congressional debut is the culmination of its efforts.

"There is a lot of momentum behind the CARE Bill right now with the combined efforts of the ASRT, the Alliance, national organizations and patients demanding top-notch health care," ASRT President James Temme writes on the official ASRT website. "We are energized by the support and will continue to push for the bill's passage."

With so much widespread support, the ASRT and other groups say it is only a matter of time before the CARE Bill becomes law, making a stronger case than ever before for ultrasound technician certification.

CARE adds to existing benefits of ultrasound technician certification

The current CARE Bill does not mandate national certification, but does set minimum ultrasound technician requirements that are on par with existing certification requirements, such as the completion of formal training through accredited ultrasound technician schools, making credentialing an easy addition to techs' resumes. Those who have become certified prior to the passage of CARE would also be exempt from new training guidelines, making certification all the more appealing.

But while the CARE Bill would underscore the value of ultrasound technician certification, it just adds to a number of benefits these credentials already provide, including:

  • Improved career outlook. According to a 2010 American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) survey of hospital and radiologic administrators, nine out of 10 employers prefer to hire certified ultrasound technicians.
  • Higher salaries. While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the 2010 median ultrasound tech salary was $64,380, 2011 data from PayScale.com indicates that Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (RDMSs) earned as much as $79,233 and Registered Vascular Technologists (RVTs) as much as $81,094.
  • Current skills. As handheld ultrasound devices are all the rage, ScienceDaily reports that many clinicians think portable ultrasound is the "stethoscope" of the future. Meanwhile, ultrasound is replacing more expensive options such as CT or MRI procedures. Certification keeps techs' skills on pace with advances in technology and patient care.

Ultrasound techs have long known that certification is a good idea. The bill before Congress is a step closer to making it the law of the land.