Spring, 2016



This hyper-focus on time management is also bad for the sonographer. Work-related musculoskeletal disorders are on the rise. Injuries acquired on the job are the main reason for long-term absences among healthcare workers. Studies have continually shown that nine out of ten sonographers will scan in pain at some point in their career. Almost 20% either retire early or change careers due to pain or career ending injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. This is a statistic I can personally attest to as my career as a sonographer was cut short after only five years due to carpal tunnel in both hands. Another problem for sonographers is as they do more and more, they become fatigued and less focused risking scanning errors and compassion burn out.

The final group that is negatively impacted by the widget approach is the student. We as sonographers know that the only way to learn is to get your hands on a probe and scan patients. There is absolutely no substitute for scan time. As the sonographer has to do more and more studies, the time to complete them has to come from somewhere and more often this time is being taken away from the student. There is a direct correlation with scan time and improvement in a student. The more scan time they receive, the better they get. The consequence of the student not getting scan time is a decrease in how well prepared they are to start working on day one. This will negatively affect the clinical site due to increased time training new sonographers. One way clinical sites handle that problem is not to hire students. This is obviously a bad solution for the student and the profession as a whole.

So, what can each of these groups do to affect change in the industry and thereby facilitate better patient care, healthier more satisfied technologists and students better prepared to enter the workforce? For the patient, they can become their own advocate. Demand better care. Use hospital surveys to let administration know the trend is unacceptable. Patients can shop around and find a facility that allots more time for patients and exams. By taking their business elsewhere, they can force the other hospitals and medical centers to change.

The sonographer can bring awareness to their administration of the exam standards set forth by accreditation and professional organizations. The sonographer can practice good ergonomics to protect their career and demonstrate to management the importance of maintaining a healthy workforce. They can join professional groups that lobby on their behalf. Push for change.

Finally, even though many students may feel like they have no control; they too can make their voices heard. Students can also join professional organizations, often at steep discounts. The student needs to make the most of EVERY opportunity they are given. Take the probe every single chance they get. With less scan time available, students need to make the best use of the time they have. Don’t waste it. Focus on the things they need the most work on. If the student is great at parasternals, there is less benefit to start their limited scanning opportunity with parasternals. Practice time is better served in the student’s areas of weakness.

Learning in the clinical site is not limited to scan time. Students need to embrace every opportunity they get to learn new technology. Every time there is a training session or meeting at the clinical site, if allowed, the student needs to attend. Watch the sonographers as they use new technology. Make notes and ask questions at the appropriate time.

Working together, patients, sonographers, and students can drive change in the industry. Remember, healthcare isn’t about building widgets. It’s about providing the best studies possible for patient, providing safe work environments for sonographers thereby prolonging their careers, and giving students the best learning opportunities possible to create the professionals of tomorrow.

References:
IAC Standards and Guidelines for Adult Echocardiography Accreditation 26 Published 8/3/2015 Page 21

American Society of Echocardiography Recommendations for Quality Echocardiography Laboratory Operations

2011 Appropriate Use Criteria for Echocardiography, JASE, March 2011 Michael H. Picard, MD, FASE, David Adams, RDCS, FASE, S. Michelle Bierig, RDCS, MPH, FASE, John M.Dent,MD, FASE, Pamela S.Douglas,MD,FASE, Linda D. Gillam,MD, FASE,Andrew M. Keller,MD,FASE, David J. Malenka, MD, FASE, Frederick A. Masoudi, MD, MSPH, Marti McCulloch, RDCS, FASE, Patricia A. Pellikka, MD, FASE, Priscilla J. Peters, RDCS, FASE, Raymond F. Stainback, MD, FASE, G. Monet Strachan, RDCS, FASE, and William A. Zoghbi, MD, FASE, Boston,Massachusetts; Durham, North Carolina; St. Louis, Missouri; Charlottesville, Virginia; New York, New York; Danbury, Connecticut; Lebanon, NewHampshire; Denver, Colorado; Houston, Texas; Rochester, Minnesota; Pennsauken, New Jersey; San Diego, California

Introduction to Sonography and Patient Care by Steven M. Penny, MA, RT (R), RDMS (AB, PS, OB/GYN), Wolters Kluwer, 2016, pages 152-178