Lately, my DM’s and emails are constantly full of questions regarding sonography — and I love it! There is a part of me that sometimes gets overwhelmed when I try to set aside time to properly respond to each person, as the questions often require a more-detailed answer rather than something I can quickly respond to. The questions I get range in topics, and are coming from people who are anywhere between a student trying to get into a DMS program to an established sonographer wondering what my experience has been with something in the field. SO, I figured the easiest way to tackle the wide range of questions would be to break them up into a series of blog posts! Today, I’m gonna tackle some of the most frequently asked questions I’ve gotten in regards to being a student.
Whether you’re a student doing pre-requisites, a student applying to programs, a student in the middle of a DMS program, or someone who is an undeclared major but considering this field, I hope these answers can help you! As always, please feel free to fact-check any advice I give and get a second opinion! I definitely do not know it all, but will share what my experiences have been & explain what I am confident in. 🙂
Here are some of my most frequently asked questions about being a student:
Why did you go to a private program as opposed to a community college?
You can read about my journey & struggle to get into a program here. Basically, prerequisites that involved science / biology / physiology or math were extremely challenging for me. Full disclosure here: I was not an ‘A’ student — I was a solid ‘B’ one. I could pour every last hour of the day into studying, reading, & researching, and the best I would do on the following test would be a ‘B’. You can imagine how discouraging this could be to someone trying to get into any type of medical program, where acceptance was almost entirely based on one’s GPA. So after a lot of struggling, private school was the route I decided to forego.
Where did you go to school?
Platt College Los Angeles (Alhambra).
What is the process to getting into a private school?
Every school is different. For mine, it consisted of an application, a series of interviews, two placement tests in which my scores would be compared with other applicants & also used to evaluate my understanding/skill in math, english, etc. After that, I had an in-person interview with the dean of the program, then waited for an offer!
What advice would you give to someone going into a program interview?
Treat it like a normal job interview. Dress nice and present the best version of yourself. Be honest. Be yourself. Be calm and let your desire to pursue DMS shine through 🙂
What are the pre-requisites for DMS? Are they difficult?
It varies program to program. But usually a math that is equivalent/higher than algebra, anatomy/physiology, a certain level of english, speech… & that’s all I can remember! I did a lot of mine at Cypress before Platt, and luckily, most of them transferred over.
What was the program like? What classes do you take?
Hard. And constant. There was always something to be studying, working on, preparing for… always! But it was always worth it. You take a bunch of different classes but they are pretty much broken up into anatomy & physiology, sonography/scanning classes, pathology, physics, patient care, medical terminology, etc.
Did your program teach Echo (cardiac) ?
No, and for most, Echo is an entirely different / separate schooling process. I know nothing about echo… its a totally different world.
Did you work during the program?
I did! But, my circumstances were rare. I got extremely lucky in that I was working as a server and my manager was AMAZING and so understanding when it came to school. He stopped scheduling me almost entirely and would let me pick up shifts when I wanted to work. So I usually worked one weekday at night, & here-and-there on weekends as needed. I should also add that I was living at home still, and did not have rent & utilities to pay there. If you are someone that would need to work 40 hours a week while in the program, I personally think you need to reconsider majors/programs as this one will take up all of your time — not to mention when you begin clinical rotation and are working 40+ hours a week…. unpaid 🙂
I feel like I’m studying ALL the time. It’s all I do. Is this normal?
YEP! Get used to it — and be proud of it! I can confidently say those who studied hard and often are the ones who will succeed, at least that was the case in my class. Everyone that was known for studying has a full time job now, and passed their boards on the first try.
When did you take the SPI?
Immediately (2 weeks) upon finishing Physics, which was 3 months before clinicals.
What advice would you give to students that are about to begin their clinicals?
Be eager! Eager to scan, eager to do the exams other interns might avoid, eager to get to know the staff around you. Pretend it is a 6 month interview process. Go in early, work hard all shift, and offer to stay late. There is a possibility they could hire you on upon graduation / getting registered, so ALWAYS keep that in mind & do your best to stand out to your supervisors. ASK questions no matter if they’ve been asked before. No question is a stupid question when you’re a student! Go through past cases and review the images to learn what certain pathologies look like. Follow up on reports to see what the radiologist dictated about cases you’ve done. Bring a journal and log what you’re learning, draw pics if necessary! I could keep going… maybe this should be it’s own post? 😉
When did you take your first board exam? Which specialty was it?
OBGYN! Less than 2 weeks after graduating — and i suggest you do the same! Keep the studying momentum going post graduation and knock your boards out ASAP while all that info is still fresh in your mind from school.
Was your school accredited? How did they lose accreditation?
Yes, of course! Platt was CAAHEP accredited when I attended there. However, since then they have lost their accreditation. When my class very first started our program, they were in the midst of changing out / hiring new administrators – new program directors, clinical coordinators, etc. Not to get too detailed, but shortly into our program, my class was being tossed around from professor to professor due to lack of staff. We’d be assigned 17 chapters of reading at a time due to lack of a syllabus, lesson plan, etc. Then, finding our clinical locations was kind of an ‘every man for himself’ deal as the new clinical coordinator had next to no relationship established with local hospitals/sites. Problems like this progressed and extended beyond to the classes who enrolled after us. Shortly after my class graduated, the school “surrendered” their accreditation. Anyone who was enrolled in the program while it was still accredited, still graduated from an accredited school. Anyone who chose/chooses to enroll now that they are no longer accredited will be stepping in a big pile of problems down the line.
What overall advice would you give to students in the DMS program?
Gosh, so much! But mostly, give it all you’ve got. I have already said this, but truly, the people who made the program (& all that came with it) their #1 priority, are those who are successful sonographers today. Be ready to sacrifice some free time, social time, jobs, etc. for studying. Be committed to studying and try different methods to find what works best for you (I talked a lot about this here ). Ask questions whenever something doesn’t make sense, and don’t stop working at it until it does. Find platforms of other sonographers where you can learn from cases that are posted there & hear more about the job ( ‘Sonographers Do It In The Dark’ on Facebook is a great one! ). Lastly, as corny as it may seem, believe in yourself. You can do this 🙂