Ultrasound of the heart, cardiac ultrasound or echocardiography are all names for the process of obtaining images of the heart. For physicians and everyone else involved in the treatment of heart-related conditions, these images are crucial. To operate echocardiography equipment, technicians must receive the training necessary to produce the quality images needed for diagnosis of heart conditions.
Prior to attending a program to become an echocardiography technician, there are certain courses a student needs to have completed to be properly prepared. At the City College of San Francisco, for example, a college level anatomy course with a grade of C or higher is an absolute requirement. Anatomy is the only mandatory prerequisite, but the school highly recommends a student also be computer literate and have taken algebra courses. Two other prerequisite recommendations are a medical terminology course and hospital experience, even as a volunteer.
Types of Coursework
The courses necessary to be certified as an echocardiography technician fall into three types: classroom lecture, laboratory and clinical or practical training. A typical program, like the one at Cardiotech Ultrasound School in suburban Houston, Texas, consists of 716 hours of lecture, 334 hours of lab and 904 hours of clinical study.
One example of a classroom lecture course for an echocardiography technician includes a subject like applied ultrasound physics and instrumentation. This course provides a basic understanding of the equipment the technician will be using. Another course is pharmacology, the study of drugs. Many patients take medications prior to having an echocardiogram and the technician needs to have a working knowledge of drugs. Other examples of classroom lectures are medical legal issues, medical terminology and cardiac pathology---the study of diseases of the heart.
Examples of laboratory work include electrocardiography and vascular ultrasound. Both labs would involve working with the actual equipment, preparing the student for the real world of a hospital or physician's office.
Clinical courses, or externships as they are called by Citi College of Allied Health, involve being assigned to a hospital or diagnostic centre. The student works with the equipment in a real world setting and experiences the reality of the workplace of an echocardiography technician.