"I continue to learn. Sonography is a rapidly changing field. You are never through with learning!"

Role Model Photo Donna Harris

Health Field: Diagnostic Medical Sonographer

Number of years in the profession:
26 year

Years in College: 2 years

Professional Credentials:
A.S., R.T., A.R.D.M.S., R.V.T.

How did you know this career was what you wanted to do?
I started in Radiologic Technology and was able to see other Diagnostic Medical fields. I became a Nuclear Medicine Technologist and eventually worked for a mobile company that wanted me to do both Nuclear Medicine and Ultrasound. I went to school in Dallas and obtained a certificate in Diagnostic Medical Sonography. I had a little experience in ultrasound when I was in training for x-ray and when I was supervisor of C. T. and Nuclear Medicine. I really like ultrasound more than any of the other fields.

What other careers did you consider?
Radiologic Technology, Nuclear Medicine, Computerized Tomography, M.R.I.

What experiences in your life developed your interest in your career?
My brother, who was 12 yrs. older, attended medical school while living at home and I decided I did not want to take that route. My mother wanted me to prepare to enter medical school and I took all the prepartatory courses, but just didn't want to do it. They had a career day at my high school and I thought Radiologic Technology looked interesting. In training for that, I explored all the different related fields.

What early preparations did you take (in high school and college) to reach your career goal?
Took a lot of math courses and physics and biology. I worked as a candy striper and volunteered at a large hospital where I was able to work with patients and learn more about medical practices.

What things did you find to be difficult as you prepared for your career?
I had lots of support and really didn't find things to be difficult. Learning the anatomy was very challenging. You have to know spatial anatomy and understand orientation of structures and relationships of structures. This is much more difficult than cross-sectional anatomy, which is difficult.

How did you overcome these challenges?
I made a model of the major vessels with different colored pipe cleaners and looked at it when I was taking a tangential slice through the body to help me understand what I was looking at.

Was your family supportive of you through your college (or other training) years?
Yes

Did you have a job and work while you were going to college or other training? Yes


Present Career as a Diagnostic Medical Sonographer


Describe an average work day for you.
I am Technical Director for the Ultrasound Department, so I spend a lot of my time with computer and paperwork. I also assist sonographers when they need help with scanning a patient. I look at other studies to see if what we saw and reported was correct. I keep up with new procedures and train the sonographers in those. I work with new sonographers to teach them our protocols. Each day is very different for me, depending on what needs my attention.

How many hours do you work in an average week?
40-50

What kind of health care setting do you work in?
Large hospital/clinic

What do you see as strengths needed for your career?
a good background in math and some physics, ability to pay attention to detail, empathy

What is the most rewarding part of your job?
Interacting with the patients and knowing I have helped someone

What advice would you give to those who are interested in your career?
Work hard and take pride in what you do, but be prepared for making mistakes and don't let them beat you down. Mistakes are great teachers.

If you could start over, would you still make the same decision to pursue education?
Yes, I have worked in other fields and this is the one best suited for me.

Do you plan to pursue opportunities for advancement in your career field?
I continue to learn and am required to obtain 30 CME's every three years. I usually have more than 30 in a single year. Sonography is a rapidly changing field. You are never through with learning. There are five specialties within the field and I have continued on and obtained them all. The last specialty was created in 2000 and I took the registry in 2001 (one of the first 500 to do so).

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