Research: A Sonographer’s Role

Margaret M. Park (Koko), BS, ACS, RVT, RDCS, FASE
Are you thinking about expanding your skill set to include research? The clinical research sonographer job description will vary depending on the type of employer and the size of the institution. A review of job descriptions for clinical/research sonographers commonly requires adult echocardiography registry through the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography or Cardiovascular Credentialing International, a bachelor’s degree (preferably in science), and 5–7 years previous experience in cardiac/vascular imaging including two years of hospital-based experience. In addition, most institutions will require some research-related training that covers the basics of clinical research trials, internal review board (IRB) policy and procedures, good clinical practice, FDA policy and procedures, and the collaborative institutional training initiative (CITI) certification in human subject protection. Personal attributes include exceptional interpersonal skills, working well with others, the ability to multitask and balance priorities, and critical thinking.

The definition of scientific research is performing a methodical study to prove a hypothesis or answer a specific question. A hypothesis is the first step in the scientific method, a statement that the researcher believes to be true. The null hypothesis is just the opposite of the research hypothesis.

Of course, one’s job title does not have to have “research” in it to practice research. As sonographers, we are by nature inquisitive, and research helps us to expand our knowledge through investigation, critical thinking, and analytic ability. Research also helps us to promote our profession and provides a means to communicate best practices and new technological advancements, as well as to move innovation to the clinical lab for improved processes and better patient care.

The first exposure most sonographers encounter is involvement in a clinical trial in which a specific cardiovascular ultrasound protocol is designed for studying specific end points. These protocols are usually more demanding than a clinically driven protocol, and may require multiple cardiac cycles to be collected and analyzed with specific machine settings for multiple parameters throughout the exam. The quality of the research collected will be determined by how well the operator followed the protocol and optimized each collection of images. Any deviation from the protocol would result in a loss of data points for the study. Additionally, you may be required to screen subjects for inclusion/exclusion criteria, consent and enroll subjects, collect and complete clinical report forms, follow FDA and IRB compliance, and catalog all information into subject binders for the sponsor.

Your interest in research may lead you to imaging mice, rabbits, or other animals, working in surgery on valve or device innovation, or helping to improve ultrasound probe or system design, dynamics, and ergonomics. The American Society of Echocardiography encourages research for sonographers and participation in the Scientific Sessions. Abstracts submitted by sonographer investigators to this year’s Scientific Sessions are eligible for the 2017 Sonographer Investigator’s Award Competition. Four lucky sonographers will receive free meeting registration when their abstracts are selected for the competition. The winner of the competition will additionally receive $500.00. To be eligible, applicants must hold echocardiography certification from the American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography or Cardiovascular Credentialing International, or an equivalent international sonography certification, and must indicate that they would like to be considered for the competition when submitting their work.

If in attendance at the Scientific Sessions, remember to attend “Reaching the Summit”: Sonographer Abstract Competition & Career Conversations on Sunday, June 4, from 1:15–2:45 pm. The ASE Foundation, beyond awarding research grants to sonographer investigators, also supports annual travel grants for the Sonography, Pediatric, and Vascular steering councils’ members for the Scientific Sessions.

An abstract is the first step in reporting the findings of your research. The abstract should clearly state your hypothesis, methods, results, conclusions, and limitations in the form of tables, graphs, and/or images, all supporting the statistical analysis from your research. Be prepared to attend the meeting to present your abstract in the form of a poster, oral presentation, or both ( Figure 1 ). The next phase would include preparation of your manuscript, which follows along the same lines as the abstract preparation but in much greater detail. This is where working with an experienced research team really becomes valuable; your experienced co-authors, and hopefully a statistician, will guide you along the way. Reviewing other publications and other projects with similar designs is essential and very helpful in creating a writing plan. Some find it easiest to write in sections and then put it all together. Not to worry, however; the manuscript will change many times over prior to submission. After you have chosen the journal with the right “fit,” feedback from reviewers will generally require a few more overhauls.

Apr 15, 2018 | Posted by in CARDIOLOGY | Comments Off on Research: A Sonographer’s Role

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