Community’s diagnostic medical sonography program reaches milestone

Community Regional Medical Center’s diagnostic medical sonography program is now one of three in California with dual accreditation in cardiac and general sonography and one of the few hospital based programs offering all classes and clinical experience on site. The 18-month-old program recently received approval from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education.

“This is something we are quite proud of. Only Loma Linda University and Kaiser Richmond have similar accreditation,” said Joy Guthrie, Community Regional’s ultrasound supervisor and the program’s director. She started the program to help fill a need in the Valley for ultrasound technicians.

“We have already hired three of our interns in this program and have one more to hire soon.  This is a very good testament to ‘growing your own’ with our own hospital-based program,” Guthrie added.

“It’s hard to find qualified and registered sonographers,” said Guthrie, who is now able to handpick from among her best students for openings.

Student sonographers have the benefit of a variety of patients and situations at Community Regional, and now with the accreditation they can also sit for their national registry board examinations immediately after graduation.

Guthrie explained that this isn’t the norm since the accreditation process is quite rigorous and not required for sonography training programs. “The accrediting body evaluates everything,” she said, “organizational support, both administrative and operationally and financially. Additionally, they evaluate the qualifications of the faculty, clinical coordinators, equipment, library resources, curriculum design, clinical competency forms, student files, and overall structural processes of the entire program. Many programs do not submit themselves to this academic rigor.”

Guthrie has a good track record of success, with 98% of graduates in a former sonography school where she taught in Merced, passing the national exam on their first try. The first-time pass rate nationally for the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) exam is 55%, Guthrie explained.

Community Regional program has cardiac and general diagnostic training tracks, including echocardiography and general/vascular ultrasound. Classes are held in the hospital Tuesday and Thursday evenings with clinical training four days a week, seven hours a day until students reach 1,700 clinical hours.

Currently there are nine students in the program and 12 slots opening for the next cohort. Students do not have to be affiliated with the hospital to apply but must have either a bachelor's degree or two year allied health degree, such as radiology technologist, to gain entrance into the program. In addition, the students must have completed Anatomy and Physiology, Physics, Medical Terminology, Algebra, and English.

This story was reported by Erin Kennedy. She can be reached at MedWatchToday@CommunityMedical.org.