An Interview with Kristen Thomas
“When I first considered studying diagnostic medical sonography, I expected the course material to be engaging based on my numerous conversations with sonographers working in the field. In fact, I have never encountered a sonographer who doesn’t enjoy their job or have positive things to say about their education.”
Kristen Thomas is studying to earn her Bachelor of Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography. She is a third year student at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Kristen previously earned her Associate of Science in General Studies from Northern Virginia Community College.
Kristen chose to pursue a bachelors degree in diagnostic medical sonography because it gives her the opportunity to advance in the medical field. After getting her degree, Kristen plans to work as a registered diagnostic sonographer in a hospital.
In your own words, what is diagnostic medical sonography?
Diagnostic medical sonography is a form of non-evasive imaging that allows sonographers to identify disease in a patient’s body. Sonographers are trained to examine a patient’s medical history and to take pictures of a patient’s organs to make a proper diagnosis.
Why did you choose to study diagnostic medical sonography?
I chose to study diagnostic medical sonography because it provides me with a diverse background in imaging, diagnostics and the human body which will prepare me for multiple career opportunities. Sonography is a great entry point into the medical field.
When you first considered studying diagnostic medical sonography what were your expectations?
When I first considered studying diagnostic medical sonography, I expected the course material to be engaging based on my numerous conversations with sonographers working in the field. In fact, I have never encountered a sonographer who doesn’t enjoy their job or have positive things to say about their education.
Although I expected to love the field, I did not expect the study of sonography to be so complex and interactive. For example, using a sonography machine to take imagery of a patient requires maneuvering the patient and working the machine correctly.
What do you find most enjoyable about studying diagnostic medical sonography?
The most enjoyable aspect of studying diagnostic medical sonography is the clinical component of the program. Clinical rotations give me the opportunity to apply my knowledge and skills to real-world scenarios in the hospital.
What kinds of classes have you taken in your diagnostic medical sonography program?
In my diagnostic medical sonography program, I have taken classes in general sonography, vascular sonography and echo sonography. Specific topics covered include abdominal and pelvis imaging, obstetrics and gynecology, health management and ethics. Classwork entails quizzes and tests.
In addition to classes, my program offers students practical training through clinical rotations and scan labs. Clinical rotations teach students how to use the sonography machine and interact with patients, while scan labs provide hands-on experience in scanning and writing case reports for radiologists.
Which of these classes do you think will be most valuable for your future goals?
I think my scan lab will be most valuable for my future goals in the medical sonography field. The scan lab gives me 8 weeks of intensive training on scanning procedures to prepare me to work in a clinical setting.
What resources do you use to help you succeed in your studies?
To help me succeed in my studies, I utilize my program’s wonderful staff and students. My teachers are available day and night to answer questions, while the sonographers in my clinical program suggest helpful techniques to use during scanning procedures.
Also, because my program is so small, I work closely with the 13 other students. We form study groups and offer each other emotional support during challenging semesters.
What personality traits do you think would help a student to succeed in a diagnostic medical sonography program and what traits would hinder success?
In order to succeed in a diagnostic medical sonography program, students need to be patient and compassionate. Students will often work with patients who are physically disabled or temporarily immobile, so they need to be empathetic to the patients’ various needs during the scanning procedure.
On the other hand, students who lack confidence will struggle in the medical sonography field. Students cannot second guess their ability to properly take a picture and make a diagnosis.
What is your weekly schedule?
My weekly schedule includes class and lab time as well as clinical rotations. I am in class from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Then I am in class from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Most nights I attend scan lab and lectures from 8:00 to 10:00 p.m. In addition, I must complete 24 hours of clinical work each week, so I am usually in the clinic 3 days a week for 8 hours.
Because of my busy week, I have little free time. I spend my 1 or 2 days off studying and catching up on class materials.
How do you manage your course load? What study tips would you give to a prospective student?
I manage my course load by developing excellent time management skills and working in groups. I utilize 3 different planners to lay out my class schedule, plan activities and set deadlines. I also collaborate with other students on homework assignments to better understand the material.
In addition, I would advise prospective students to focus on understanding the logic behind different class topics, rather than simply memorizing the material. This is important because students need to master all of the course material in order to successfully practice in the field.
What are your plans for after graduation?
After I graduate, I hope to enter the medical field as a registered diagnostic medical sonographer. Of course I will need to pass a board exam, which requires a certain number of clinical hours to become registered.
Now that you have completed 2 years of your diagnostic medical sonography program, if you could go back to high school, what would you do differently?
If I could go back to high school again, I would research different degree programs, volunteer and attend information sessions to figure out what type of career I wanted to pursue. I feel like I prematurely enrolled in Northern Virginia Community College before determining whether or not I would like the program.
What advice do you have for students who are interested in studying diagnostic medical sonography?
I would advise students interested in studying diagnostic medical sonography to make sure that their school is accredited. This is important for being able to take the board exams.
In addition, I would suggest that students should shadow a sonographer at a hospital to make sure they are interested in the field. Sonographers are usually more than happy to talk to students about their daily tasks.