Despite the restricted environment and additional infection prevention precautions for COVID-19, Community Regional Medical Center’s 16 sonography students completed their hospital training and graduated at the end of July.
The ceremony, held outside the hospital with everyone masked and seats set up for social distancing, marked the fifth graduation since the program started in fall 2011. The program is the only one in the nation currently accredited in all five sonography disciplines – General Diagnostic Sonography, Adult Cardiac Echo, Pediatric Cardiac Echo, Vascular Sonography and Advanced Cardiac Echo. And it’s the only program in California accredited to train students on ultrasound techniques needed to detect anomalies in the tiny hearts of premature babies.
Community Regional was the first in the nation to be accredited to train advanced cardiac sonographers, who are able to extend the care of cardiologists, much like nurse practitioners do for physicians. Sonography uses high frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to produce images of organs, tissues or blood flow inside the body. It's used to examine many parts of the body and is increasingly used to detect and treat heart and vascular disease.
Sonographers are in short supply
“Sonographers are a hard-to-fill position and it takes a lot of one-on-one and hands-on training to produce one sonographer. Community Medical Centers set up this program so students are able to be immersed in their craft from day one,” said Joy Guthrie PhD, ACS, RDMS, RDCS, RVT. Guthrie is the director of the sonography training at the downtown Fresno hospital and assistant professor of medicine at UCSF Fresno in Echocardiography. “A large percentage of the sonographers who work at Community are graduates of this program.”
Guthrie praised the recent graduates: “These sonography students were sidelined for a bit and it’s a testament to their dedication that they’ve finished. We wanted to do everything possible to honor them for their hard work.”
She explained this sonography cohort came in for extra labs and educational training in February and early March anticipating there might be a shut down because of the coronavirus. That extra time, Guthrie said, allowed students to get in their required clinical time and graduate with honors.
“I’m grateful, that even during this pandemic when we’re stretched thin clinically, we were able to offer this training and continue to help provide quality education,” Guthrie said. “This would not be possible without the full support of Community’s administration, administrative assistants, our affiliate sites and faculty. This is clearly a team effort.”
Community’s 18-month program is unique in the region. The nearest hospital-based sonography training programs are in the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Find out more about qualifications and how to apply.