I have worked steadily in the ultrasound field for over 20 years, initially in a busy downtown hospital and then in private diagnostic imaging centres. Recently I decided to change my place of employ and had visited various clinics to interview. I looked at everything when I was considering a job because I really care about what I do. I was fortunate to be credentialed in many specialties and to possess a lot of clinical experience but it took time for me to find a good place to work. It was far from easy.
It surprised me to see some equipment in clinics with such poor quality images. Endovaginal ultrasound transducers were being soaked in the ultrasound room with the patient and sonographer present , where there was lack of ventilation . Fixed Examination tables were being used instead of Stretchers that could be raised or lowered for the ease of the patient. The fixed tables also required the sonographer to stand with their arm in an awkward position for a long period of time. One such clinic had just passed an inspection by the CPSO ( College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario) . I was a little shocked.
The most disturbing trend in most clinics is the short booking times for all examinations. Exams are being booked in some places for various specialties in 15 -20 min booking slots . The pressure to be faster and produce more volume is a requirement for the sonographer hired in most places to offset the reduction in the service fees outlined by the Ministry of Health
The fact is: Shortened examination times result in many cases with pathology being missed. This in NO way protects the public and in fact puts sonographers in a high risk situation. Who is ultimately responsible if a sonographer misses something when there is inadequate time given for the examination??? or Subpar equipment?? A sonographer is required to bring the patient into the room, take a history, perform the examination, write up a technical report and review and document prior imaging measurements of pathology for the radiologist if the patient is here for followup. The Sonographer today is sometimes required to add billing and scan all technical reports for the radiologist. The Sonographer today is required to teach in the clinical setting but given inadequate time to do a thorough job with inadequate or no extra pay .There can also be subtle adverse employment actions that make it difficult to remain at your job if you voice your opinion therefore for a lot of sonographers it is better not to voice your opinion at all.
Jobs are scarce therefore sonographers have to make due with what is out there but there is little in place to protect a sonographer when an injury occurs due to repetitive strain . The cause in most cases is due to the pressure to perform. Be faster , Complete more cases in your allotted shorter booking times. The use of of Improper chairs. Improper tables. I have had many colleagues and friends in this profession that have eventually had to leave our field because of repetitive strain injuries.
Financially sonographers also have to survive too. We have bills to pay. Cost of living increases but the pay of the sonographer decreases to offset the service fee cut backs . How fair is that ? I am making less pay now than when I worked in the hospital over 10 years ago. Short booking times for certain examinations is very unfair to the sonographer and extremely unfair to the patient. A life can be lost . A malignant lesion missed when there is time for treatment . Fetal loss because something was missed on a biophysical profile obstetrical examination. These are devastating outcomes.
There must be a system in place to regulate the times for examinations. Knowledgeable people with the credentials and clinical experience need to evaluate clinics and hospitals to take a deeper look at what is really going on.
I hope the CMRTO becomes the voice of the sonographer. In the end , we strive to do the best we can for the patient and the Mandate of the CMRTO is to protect the public. We need to also protect the sonographer in the workplace and by doing so this will also protect the public. These two go hand in hand.