The Newman University diagnostic medical sonography program is unique in many respects.
The program offers students a hands-on learning experience on campus and an end result of a bachelor’s degree, which is not typical of most sonography programs.
Newman provides didactic and lab work at the university for personal instruction, and students learn three different modalities throughout the course with clinical sites being personally hand-picked for each individual student.
Brooke Ward, director of diagnostic medical sonography, said, “We have a curriculum set up to put the students in a position of success from the beginning.”
She and adjunct professor Lindsay Harris help guide students from the application process all the way to graduation day.
When looking at applications, Ward seeks students who have a high GPA and have done volunteer work in sonography.
“I love to see students who take personal efforts to understand what they are getting into,” said Ward. “It really shows a difference between someone who says they saw a YouTube video or went to an appointment once. There’s nothing greater than your time. If you’re willing to give it, I see that as dedication.”
Qualities that sonography students are expected to have include organization, kindness, honesty, the ability to handle stress effectively and to be detail-oriented.
Students can expect to be trained on three modalities in the program: abdomen, vascular and obstetrics. Upon graduation, students can choose to practice all modalities or become “masters” in only one.
Along with the necessary technical skills, Ward places a large emphasis on her students learning how to work and act as professionals in the field. She said, “I really push this hard. After all, it is a human being’s life we are blessed to be a part in caring for. We are also called medical professionals for a reason.”
In Newman’s program, students complete all of their coursework before moving on to clinicals, a nontypical path for most health-care related students.
“The benefit of this is to have the students feeling poised and ready for their time in the clinical setting,” said Ward. “They are no longer having the added stress of learning content while trying to focus on the clinical experience. Once they are placed, they can place attention on the perfection of their skills learned here at the university. This enables them to become confident scanners sooner.”
Newman is one of a few schools to adopt this method.
Clinical sites are hand-picked by Ward for each student. She believes that being new to the field may affect students’ ability to understand what to look for in a clinical site, not to mention the added stress of a student tasked with finding a site on their own. Ward ensures that she places students in locations that expose them to a variety of exams and provides them with ample practice.
Most sonography programs are either certificates or associate degrees but Newman students are a step ahead when it comes to professional advancement by obtaining their bachelor’s degree.
“The way health care is shifting, more and more (employers) are wanting bachelor’s degrees as a minimum to apply for leadership positions. We want to put students in a place to achieve that,” said Ward.
Once graduated, students can expect to earn around $60,000 in annual salary, according to Ward. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found the mean annual wage estimate for this occupation to be $71,750.
The program at Newman currently accepts up to six students per year but has plans to expand to eight to 10 students in 2019. Ward has been working hard to find clinical sites to accommodate the higher number of students. Once the program becomes sustainable at eight to 10 students, Ward will seek accreditation.
Ward said, “We are very excited to have a program that allows us to train up the next set of medical professionals. As a bachelor degree-granting program, it enables us to start them off as excellence leaders for our community.
“In sonography, we have ‘sight with sound.’ Without even saying a word, in just doing their jobs. The students are able to represent Newman proudly through their quality of work. Having the privilege to set them on that path here at Newman is an incredible blessing.”