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Volunteerism: New technologies open doors for ultrasound techs

By Aimee Hosler,

Ultrasound technicians have long manned the ranks in local hospitals and medical centers, providing much-need diagnostic care for patients in need. While most ultrasound technicians still work in hospital, or at least clinical settings, recent advances in ultrasonic technology is providing ultrasound techs with new ways to serve patients elsewhere through global volunteerism.

New ultrasound technology helps techs break out of clinical settings

The 2010 Winter Olympics was an exciting time not just for the athletes participating, but also for the medical staff along the sidelines. That's because for the first time ever a portable ultrasound device produced by General Electric was available for immediate diagnostic use for injured athletes. Medical staff could capture images and instantly send them to radiologists waiting nearby. Athletes, in turn, were diagnosed and treated faster than ever before.

Now a Washington-based mobile health start-up called Mobisante is taking portable ultrasound to new levels entirely. In February of 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave Mobisante's new smartphone-based ultrasound its seal of approval. Yes, thanks to a Toshiba Windows Mobile-powered smartphone, an ultrasound probe and the company's software, ultrasound techs can now perform diagnostic imaging from virtually anywhere.

How these new technological advances will ultimately impact ultrasound technician careers is unclear. They could, for instance, shift emergent ultrasound responsibilities from clinic-based ultrasound technicians to first responders in the field. One thing is clear, however: portable ultrasound is providing ultrasound technicians with new opportunities in volunteerism.

Ultrasound technicians' new-found volunteerism

You likely chose to attend an ultrasound technician school because you wanted to care for patients in need. Now, thanks to portable ultrasound technology, you can carry this desire to help much further than ever before.

In 2010, Haiti endured a catastrophic 7.0 magnitude earthquake. Medical professionals from across the globe converged to provide much needed assistance to sick and injured Haitians. Among them were ultrasound technicians making excellent use of new ultrasound technologies. Meanwhile groups like Radiologists Without Borders are on the ground assisting patients in Tanzania, Haiti, Honduras and The Sudan.

While a rewarding sense of satisfaction is among one of the most notable benefits of volunteerism for an ultrasound tech, it's only one. Participating in groups like the Haiti Volunteer Network or Radiologists Without Borders helps ultrasound techs break away from the clinical setting to provide potentially life-or-death treatment to victims of disaster. It's the experience of a lifetime, to be sure, but it also reminds ultrasound techs why they went into their fields to begin with, reigniting their passions for both sonography and patient care.

For ultrasound technicians, the right training is a must

While some states have initiated licensing requirements for ultrasound technicians and other states are bound to do the same, ultrasonic technology is a largely unregulated field. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and a recent survey conducted by the American Registry of Radiologic Technicians, employers increasingly prefer to hire those who have attend ultrasound technician schools. The same is often true for global volunteer coordinators who want to ensure that the ultrasound techs dispatched to the field are both competent and capable in providing the appropriate care, particularly when using newer portable technologies. Even if you don't choose to volunteer, ultrasound tech schools can give you a leg up over lesser trained career competition, which can, in turn, boost your ultrasound tech salary and employment prospects.

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