Inside the Sonography Lab
In the lab, students learn how to operate ultrasound equipment, with classmates and staff acting as patients. Practice with people is critical as real bodies don’t look like the pictures in an anatomy textbook. Each body is different.
Sonography students scan their classmates under the supervision of Professor Patty Braga.
Student sonographer places the transducer on her classmate’s abdomen, which send sound waves into the body that bounce off tissue, creating “echoes.” Ultrasound technology converts these echoes into the images seen on the screen, which are then evaluated by a physician, typically a radiologist.
In order to build skills in recognizing medical conditions, students also perform scans using a life-size female mannequin and simulation technology. The technology lets them discover abnormalities and compare the 2-D ultrasound images against 3-D anatomical images on a split screen. This helps students think critically about anatomy, physiology and disease processes and hones their ability to look at 2-D images, yet think 3-D.
The ability to look at the 2-D image on the screen, but think 3-D, is a crucial skill in capturing the correct images. Sonographers use a transducer to send sound waves into the body, which bounce off tissue, creating “echoes.”
The ultrasound technology converts these echoes into images that the sonographer sees
on the screen. The images indicate the various tissue densities at different levels
within the body as the sound travels down. In order to get good images, the sonographer
must angle the transducer perpendicular to the area of interest so that the sound
waves bounce straight off. That’s where independent and intuition comes into play.
Thinking in 3-D, sonographers must be resourceful in order to position the patient
in such a way that creates the optimal images.
Using the Vimedix™ OB/GYN Simulator, students scan a life-size female mannequin with a transducer and are able to see a 20-week fetus with realistic fetal and maternal anatomy and a range of abnormalities. Instructors have the option to hide the name of the pathology from the students to test their understanding.
On the Vimedix computer screen, students view high-resolution, real-time ultrasound images (right) simultaneously with 3-D anatomical images in a split screen mode.
Real-World Clinical Experiences
In addition to hands-on practice in the lab, all students are assigned to four clinical
sites during their time in the program. Sites include hospitals, clinics and private
practices in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, Hendry and Okeechobee counties.
Through the use of a life-size mannequin and simulation technology, students practice finding abnormalities they otherwise would not have the opportunity to see in a lab setting.
This close-up of the computer screen shows the 3-D anatomical image (left) next to 2-D ultrasound image of same body part.
Professor Patty Braga, PBSC Sonography department chair, explains methods used to prepare students.