Frequently Asked Questions
WHY IS THE FIELD CALLED Vascular Sonography?
Practitioners use ultrasound for 80% of their patient testing but a wide range of other instrumentation is also used for the remaining 20%. The incorporation of other instrument modalities produces an interesting mix of technologies for non-invasively testing the vascular patient.
HOW ARE THE TESTS PERFORMED?
Ultrasound is very different from other diagnostic modalities. A vascular ultrasound examination is not a matter of taking a series of ultrasound pictures. It may be difficult to believe but the complexities in the exam often make it difficult for an experienced sonographer to stand behind another and determine the disease state of the patient. The sonographer needs to have a hand on the probe to feel fully comfortable with the results. This is because the ultrasound exam is a multi-step puzzle-solving process with each step requiring probe manipulation to obtain a correct assessment. Each subsequent step in an ultrasound exam is determined by the previous steps. The operator has to interpret each step before moving on. The examination is complete only if the sonographer is able to combine all elements to form a coherent impression of the disease state. In vascular ultrasound, the procedure is complicated by using dynamic images to determine physiology. This is not easily documented.
It should be clear that unlike most forms of diagnostic testing, the ultrasound work-up is largely based on the skills of the technologist/sonographer. If the person manipulating the ultrasound probe misses disease, the disease will be missed by anyone reviewing the exam. This means that the vascular sonographer/technologist is the one who identifies the presence or absence of disease.
HOW DOES THE VASCULAR SONOGRAPHER INTERACT WITH THE PHYSICIAN?
In a typical Vascular Laboratory, the Vascular Surgeon is a phone call away but is not often present in the laboratory. Surgeons spend the bulk of their time in the operating room or evaluating patients. Surgeons are typically not able to perform ultrasound studies and depend upon the sonographer for the results and a preliminary interpretation. Still, Vascular Technologists are often the first to detect a vascular problem and surgery is increasingly based on the studies performed in the vascular lab. In an active lab. Technologists also help in the preoperative planning of certain operations. Postoperatively, they can be asked to determine if a patient has to be taken back to the operating room. Hopefully you can see that a good technologist/sonographer becomes a valuable complement to the surgeon and should be someone that can be depended upon to help in the care of the vascular patient.
While Vascular Technologists are diagnostic sonographers, they play an important role in the long-term management of vascular patients. They often see the patient before the surgeon at each office visit and were often the ones to determine that a patient was a candidate for surgery. Technologists seeing a significant problem in a patient will alert the physician immediately to initiate an action. The working relationship between technologists and vascular surgeon or a referring physician can be very close.
IS THIS THE RIGHT FIELD FOR ME?
This is a multi-pronged question.
- People are concerned because they haven't heard about Vascular Sonography or vascular ultrasound. It is relatively new and not a well known but it will be around for a long time. As long as there are vascular diseases and vascular surgery, there will be a need for Vascular Sonographers. Most diagnostic modalities are anatomically based. Procedures performed by Vascular Sonographers are evaluating physiology as well as anatomy, making their jobs unique among forms of diagnostic testing.
- Is it too specialized? Hospitals want more cross-training among personnel and laboratories also appreciate broader coverage. However, there will always be a need for specialization. Sonographers are too often performing vascular studies on patients when they are not trained in the procedures. It is unavoidable that as ultrasound equipment and more diagnostics are performed non-invasively, testing will become more sophisticated. Good sonographers highly specialized in vascular procedures are well respected in the hospital. Accrediting bodies recognize this need for specialization and set minimum lengths of education for each specialty. Cross-training is not readily feasible in entry –level clinical education
- Does it match my personality-type? This is important. We ask all potential applicants to tour the Vascular Lab. This gives them the opportunity to see first hand whether they could enjoy this line of work. People in this line of work must enjoy problem-solving challenges and have good hand-eye coordination. Those who do not feel comfortable with hand coordination skills may have difficulty. Those who thrive enjoy developing their analytical and technical skills to solve complex problems.
Our workers must enjoy working with patients. They will be directly in the flow of patient care, making decisions that have important consequences to the patient. They will also be interacting with many physicians who had referred the patients to the lab. Confidence is important when discussing cases with physicians. The daily work experiences are not boring. They can be as exciting and challenging as any that an individual is willing to meet. Workers must also be team players, depending on each other to solve difficult cases.