An echocardiographer is a trained technician or technologist who employs sonogram technology to provide diagnostic imaging of the heart. Using waves of sound via a Doppler/transducer, techs gather information about the heart’s structure, function, pressures and rhythm. Work involves close contact with cardiologists or echocardiologists, who view initial findings of the echocardiographer and diagnose or suggest treatment to patients afterwards. Most of the jobs in echocardiography are working with adults, but a few of these technicians work with children or pregnant women and may principally perform pediatric or fetal echocardiograms.
The amount of training needed to become an echocardiographer varies. Most people minimally train for two years and receive an associate of arts degree from places like community colleges or technical and trade-medical schools. Trends in labor suggest a preference for employees that possess a bachelor’s degree and flexibility to work in adult, fetal, or pediatric areas.
A bachelor’s degree may correspond to greater job opportunities and higher pay. The work can be desired because median pay tends to be relatively generous in places like the US. As of 2008, it was just under $60,000 US Dollars (USD) with stable projected growth in the field. Depending on the region where a person is employed, licensing might be required and echocardiographers could be expected to take continuing education units.
The actual work of the echocardiographer involves significant direct contact with patients. Technicians look at adult and pediatric hearts using a transducer and special conductive gel on the chest or upper abdomen of patients to get the needed images. They glide the transducer over the skin of the patient, collecting the best views of the heart. A computer is used to get different views, magnify structures to examine them more closely, or evaluate different aspects of the heart’s function. Echos can take about fifteen minutes to an hour on average, depending on how comprehensive they are. A full-time echocardiographer might work with six to ten patients daily, or more in very busy practices or hospital settings.
Fetal echocardiography is slightly different, and is more like performing the traditional fetal ultrasound. The technician focuses on evaluating the fetal heart structure, but is performing an ultrasound on the mother. This could involve both abdominal and transvaginal views, where the Doppler/transducer is inserted into the vagina.
The echocardiogram produced is a diagnostically valuable moving picture with accompanying sound. Most of these are recorded, or the technician may record relevant images that indicate heart health or cardiac problems. The echocardiographer is not there to diagnose problems for the patient, and won’t discuss findings of an echocardiogram, though he might point out structures of the heart to a curious patient. Instead, echo techs get an initial picture and present diagnosis or findings to doctors. The doctor may perform additional echocardiogram views and then releases diagnostic information or treatment suggestions to patients.
Echocardiographers work in many locations, like hospitals, radiology clinics, and busy cardiology practices. Those techs with the sensitivity and training to perform pediatric and fetal echoes may most work at tertiary hospitals. Private pediatric cardiology practices also employ echo techs.