“You’re the new ultrasound technician”?
Technician or technologist, is it really a big deal how they refer to us? After all, according to our licensing society we are “Sonographer’s” a very cool term that conjures up images of photographers specializing in capturing snaps with sound waves of internal anatomy. Though the term hasn’t quite stuck. Often confused with stenographer a person whose job is to transcribe speech in shorthand.
I am usually not one to waste too much time worrying about exercises in semantics. However, I have seen many a colleague express their consternation with the nomenclature, and with justification. We learn intricate details of anatomy, pathology and the physical principles in producing the sonographic image, and that is just the beginning.
Technician and technologist are different things, though they are often used interchangeably. A technician is a person who has a practical understanding of technology. Properly defined as “A person employed to look after technical equipment or do practical work in a laboratory‘. A technologist is one with a deeper understanding of their field of choice and use problem solving and critical thinking skills. Can a person be an ultrasound technician? Sure, though not officially recognized, you can teach someone the requisite the knobology of an ultrasound machine, how to acquire a proper image, where to place the transducer. But unlike other fields, sonography is different, just pushing buttons and taking pictures isn’t enough. It is the difference between an ordered sequence of images that though on the surface appear adequate are sub-optimal upon further investigation. Someone without the requisite knowledge can miss a tumor, even a large one, and most definitely more subtle findings that may elucidate underlying disease processes.
Thinking outside the box is paramount for a sonographer!
I like to think of a technician as someone who works with “things” follows preset protocols to find a solution to a problem, but doesn’t typically stray from set protocol, procedures and or manuals. Think a biomedical technician which updates, fixes and troubleshoots the vast majority of hospital machines like I.V. pumps and ICU monitors.
Whereas a technologist , which can also work with things, receives a problem and analyzes it, gathers and interprets this data and formulates images that are diagnostically accurate and aesthetically pleasing.
A technician will take a RUQ image. A technologist will see trace free fluid in the Morrison’s pouch and investigate for a possible cause.
Being adamant about what a profession is called is nothing new or unique to sonography. Call a physician you don’t know by their given name or as Mr. or a nurse and you are likely to be corrected, and rightfully so this person has spent a large chunk of their life devoting themselves for their chosen career. In modern times with the corporatization of medicine doctors are being lumped into a “provider” category, much to their chagrin, by administrators and insurance agencies. They feel they are clinicians and don’t appreciate being devalued no more than many physician assistants and nurse practitioners appreciate being called “mid levels”.
All this boils down to is wanting acknowledgement for the work we do. Media has a great relationship with ultrasound, but it’s affair is short-sighted mostly pointing a myopic spotlight on a tiny though important sliver of what we practice, obstetrics. Too often we are seen as orderlies with a wand in hand and most of the time absolutely ignored while the star actor plays doctor, transporter and phlebotomist.
But I digress as that is another topic for a different day. So in conclusion what do we want to be called? Ideally Sonographers, it isn’t hard to pronounce and not much different from Photographer which is still strong in our lexicon. Seeing as this not changing soon at the very least refrain from referring to us as technician as it doesn’t define what we do appropriately.
Henry Suarez RDMS, RVT