The National Education Curriculum (NEC) is a document that can serve as an educational resource for sonography educators. The NEC is available on the Joint Review Committee on Education in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (JRC-DMS) website ( www.jrcdms.org/nec.htm , accessed January 2, 2017). This document provides information about educational content for all disciplines to include common core educational skills and specialty curricular outlines in the disciplines of abdomen, superficial structures, obstetrical, gynecological, cardiac, and vascular technology. The document was developed collaboratively with 18 sonography organizations, including ASE.
For cardiac sonography, recent updates include the addition of new technology (such as; three-dimensional imaging, speckle tracking, and strain imaging), and a comprehensive outline for imaging congenital heart disease. References are listed at the end of each section, and these can be used by educators to help in textbook selections for courses they teach. The NEC was developed as a broad content outline to assist sonography educators with developing content for the courses they are teaching and can serve as an educational resource for ensuring that programs are teaching skills that have been identified by sonography professional organizations as skills needed for an entry-level sonographer. The NEC should not be confused with the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) standards and guidelines. The CAAHEP standards and guidelines define educational standards that must be followed by all accredited programs ( caahep.org/Content.aspx?ID=30 , accessed January 2, 2017).
The NEC, while developed as an educational resource for sonography instructors, also serves to further develop the occupation of Diagnostic Medical/Cardiovascular Sonography towards being recognized as a profession. Criteria that are used to determine professional status in occupations are as follows; 1) the profession provides a unique service, 2) completion of a rigorous educational program is required for entry into practice, 3) self-regulatory status for individual and group, and 4) high standards are required for selection into the profession. The NEC document helps serve as a tool for creating curricula to be used in educational programs which can then be applied to satisfy the criteria for “completion of a rigorous educational program.” While it is voluntary for educators to use the NEC, the fact that a national curriculum does exist for sonography and is supported and endorsed by many of the sonography professional societies does help with progressing the occupation towards a profession.
In 1964, Wilensky, presented a process of professionalization for occupations. Occupations that become recognized as professions tend to follow a process in which; the unique service of the occupation is recognized as a full-time job, then training and educational programs are developed to prepare individuals for entry into practice of the occupation. As the educational programs emerge, often the content is expanded to not only include content to prepare one for practice, but also to create academic degrees associated with the occupation and to prepare individuals to do research to expand the knowledge base for the occupation. After the emergence of educational programs, many of those teaching and who are leaders in the occupation, take on roles to develop professional societies. Professional societies continue to develop and advance the practice and research in the field of study. After professional societies are formed, there becomes support for laws to define the job, followed by the emergence of legal rules for who can practice the occupation. With practice rules comes the creation a code of ethics for those practicing the unique skill.
In 1999, Waggoner & Skelly, reported on the status of professionalization of cardiac sonographers and found that cardiac sonography did meet several of the criteria required for professional status, however, one area that was not consistent in our evolving profession was that of educational preparation. The NEC provides a curricular outline that can be used by all types of educational programs. The NEC document is not tied to types of academic degrees, but rather provides information about what knowledge and skills all sonography students should graduate with regardless of if the program is a hospital-based program, associate degree, or baccalaureate degree. Use of the NEC by sonography programs has the potential to standardize cardiac sonography education and advance the profession, in that all students will receive the same rigorous baseline-level knowledge and skills based on schools using the same curriculum.
Carol Mitchell, PhD, RDMS, RDCS, RVT, RT(R), FASE is an Assistant Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Dr. Mitchell currently serves as Chair of the ASE Council on Cardiovascular Sonography Steering Committee.