Community opens sonography training program to help fill void

Community Regional Medical Center has just started a diagnostic medical sonography program to train sonographers  a position that Valley hospitals often have difficulty filling. The only accredited training programs in California are in the Los Angeles area or San Francisco Bay area and few are hospital-based with all classes and clinical experience in the hospital as Community Regional’s will be.

The first group of students began classes Jan. 18.

The 18-month program is modeled on the diagnostic medical sonography program previously offered at Merced College, where Joy Guthrie, Community Regional’s ultrasound supervisor, was the program director and sole classroom instructor for ten years. After Merced College discontinued its program because of budget cuts, Guthrie said she approached Community’s leadership about creating an in-hospital sonography program.

“I pushed so hard for it because I knew the role we were playing was very vital. It’s hard to find qualified and registered sonographers,” said Guthrie. “This will be good for the hospital since we’ll be able to handpick our candidates for employment. And it’s good for sonography students because we have endless variety of patients to train with here.”

Guthrie has a good track record of success, with 98% of her 100 Merced graduates finding placement upon graduation -- including eight at Community Regional -- and 86% of those graduates passing the national registered sonographer exam on their first try. The first-time pass rate nationally for the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) exam is 55%, Guthrie added.

Community Regional’s Diagnostic Medical Sonography program just received licensing approval from California’s Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education and will begin classes Jan. 18. Guthrie is seeking additional program accreditation through the Joint Review Committee for Diagnostic Medical Sonography and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education (CAAHEP), but must wait for on-site review visits when her clinical training is in place and has students.

Community Regional will be offering cardiac and general diagnostic training tracks, including echocardiography and general/vascular ultrasound.  Classes will be 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.

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. All graduates of the program will be able to take the national registry examinations offered by the ARDMS immediately upon graduation, Guthrie said.

Inquiries about training, prerequisites and registration can be directed to:
          Joy Guthrie, DHSC, RDMS, RDCS, RVT
           Program Director of Community Regional Medical Center's
           Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program
             (general and cardiac tracks)
           Ultrasound Supervisor at Community Regional
           jguthrie@communitymedical.org

This story was reported by Erin Kennedy. She can be reached at ekennedy@communitymedical.org.