Here we are again with the latest installment in our series of interviews with ultrasound technicians. This time we’re going to talk to Natalie Gerhard. She’s very new to the field of sonography and I thought her insights would be helpful to others who are just getting started as well.
Ross: Thank you, Natalie, for joining us as part of our interview series. I know you were a little bit nervous considering you’re so new to the field but I want you to know that your insight is just as valuable as anyone else’s. As a matter of fact, I think it will be great for other new ultrasound techs to hear from someone who is just getting started. Can you begin by telling us a bit about yourself?
Natalie: Hi Ross – and hello to all who are reading this. I’ve been thinking about a career in ultrasound since I was a junior in high school. I decided I’d rather go right into a career training program rather than to the local college. I thought it would be better for me to get some training under my belt so that I could get a job and work while going to college part-time later on. I just graduated from an ultrasound tech program at a local career training school here in the Los Angeles, CA area and I sat for my certification exam through the ARDMS group about 6 months ago.
Ross: What type of environment are you working in now and how did you find your first position?
Natalie: The school I went to had a great career placement program. We had to, of course, spend some time out in the field as part of our training and I made some great contacts while doing that work. The placement coordinator helped by giving us referrals and by setting us up for interviews and I was lucky to earn a position in a diagnostic lab. I like it because you never know what type of person will be coming in for an ultrasound and working with the more experienced technicians has really helped me to advance my skills.
Ross: What was your favorite part of your training?
Natalie: While I certainly found the anatomy and physiology course fascinating, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to being extremely anxious to get my hands on one of the ultrasound machines. I was always thinking, “Yea, this is great… but I want to see it for real.” I’ve always been technologically adept, so learning how to program the machine and change the frequencies was pretty easy for me. Seeing babies, hearts, arteries, and other body parts on the imaging screen is an amazing experience.
Ross: What, for you, has been most difficult about transitioning from school to the real, working world?
Natalie: I think that when you are in school you’re learning a set series of techniques and procedures and they’re all very “basic.” They’re definitely preparing you for the real world but when you land a job and start working you realize that everyone has a different way of doing things and you have to adapt to your new environment. The office where I work has a packed schedule on a regular basis and things have to be done following a certain protocol in order for everyone to be seen on time. It takes time to adapt. Oh, and of course you have to get to know an entirely different group of people – including those who will, unfortunately, look down on you a bit because you don’t have as much experience as they do. That kind of stuff makes you worry about proving yourself as a professional.
Ross: There has been some debate amongst those in the field about whether ultrasound technicians should be referred to as technicians, technologists, or sonographers. Is that something you discussed in school, or that you have encountered in the field? How do you feel about it?
Natalie: We didn’t talk about that issue in school, and I am pretty sure we used all three of those terms interchangeably as well. Occasionally I meet a sonographer who gets really upset about being called a technician, but they’re few and far between. I think it’s a matter of personal preference.
Ross: Do you have any parting advice for our readers?
Natalie: For those who are in school, make sure you act professionally at all times – whether you’re in the classroom or working out in the field as part of your training. You never know who you are going to run into, whether a doctor or hospital partner is visiting your school or if you are working with patients. I saw several classmates mess up potential opportunities because they couldn’t help but goof around during situations where seriousness and professionalism would have been more appropriate. Be conscious of what you are doing at all times.
Thanks again for talking to me today, Natalie. I hope you were all able to benefit from some of what Natalie had to say. Please, as always, send me your questions, if you have any. Until next time…!