career fit for caring people

Isabel Coetzee, sonographer.  pic MARIANNE SCHWANKHART 23.09.09
Isabel Coetzee, sonographer. pic MARIANNE SCHWANKHART 23.09.09

WHAT career opportunities exist for a sonographer - obstetric ultrasonography?

For clinical work, opportunities exist in most hospital's radiology departments.

There we work closely with radiologists as part of a diagnostic team. In the corporate world you could diversify into sales or act as a product specialist.

As ultrasonography is such a specialised field, knowledge and experience is prized by companies selling ultrasound equipment.

Please give us a run down of a day in the life of a sonographer - obstetric ultrasonography?

When I get in, I make sure the consulting room and equipment is clean and presentable for the patients. It helps to have a list of patients that are booked and to know what procedures you need to perform on them.

Patients need to be informed about the ultrasound so that they know what to expect. As a sonographer specialising in 4D ultrasound, most of my day is positive and exciting.

It does sometimes happen, though, that abnormalities in the baby are seen, of which the patient might have been unaware. The patient needs to be informed and referred to her gynaecologist or a foetal anomaly specialist for confirmation and follow-up care.

The least exciting part of my day is the administration.

Why did you decide on this career?

While working in a busy radiology department as a general sonographer I realised how little time we had to spend with the pregnant moms and dads to be.

They would love to get more information but the doctors and gynaecologists do not always have time to answer all their questions on the development of their baby and the pregnancy.

How did you get into this career?

I always wanted to study something in the medical field. A family friend is a radiographer and she introduced me to the idea of studying radiography. I loved being able to combine medicine and technology

What's challenging about the job?

The challenging part is being meticulous and making sure that you do not miss abnormalities.

It can also be difficult to get good images on some patients because of position of the baby and or placenta and amount ofamniotic fluid.

What do you enjoy the most about it?

I love being able to facilitate a bonding session between the parents and their unborn baby. Seeing their faces when they hear the baby's heartbeat or see the baby's face for the first time is priceless!

What type of person will make a success of this position?

You have to be sympathetic, patient and caring. A passion for obstetrics and good communication skills are important.

What subjects do you need to pass in high school to be able to study towards this career?

You have to pass physics, mathematics and languages in Grade 12. After applying to your university of choice you will also undergo approval by the medical sciences department at the university.

What does one study at tertiary level to be able to get into this career?

I did a three-year course in diagnostic radiography and then specialised in ultrasonography for a further two years.

What growth prospects are there for this career?

Clinically: Sonographers can now open their own practices and offer their services to GPs and specialists. It is also exciting to stay part of a team in a hospital and gain valuable experience.

Corporate: You will be able to combine your medical skills with business tactics to climb the corporate ladder in international companies responsible for importing high value medical equipment.

What is the starting salary for a sonographer - obstetric ultrasonography?

The starting salary for a sonographer is ±R150000 a year.