By Aine Cryts

Brian McEathron, general manager of general imaging ultrasound at GE Healthcare, tells AXIS Imaging News that the shortage of well-trained breast-specialized ultrasound technologists is likely due to the fact that scanning one body part isn’t the most appealing work.

Still, he insists that breast ultrasound technologists prioritize the patient during every exam—that’s because each exam is as unique as each patient. According to McEathron, determining the right way to capture the most information about the patient makes the work interesting on a daily basis. That’s why McEathron describes it as “critical” to have access to highly skilled professionals in these roles. The connection to patient care is clear: The breast ultrasound technologist’s role involves choosing the representative images of each breast, and those images are then sent to a radiologist for interpretation.

Because breast ultrasound technologists are vital members of the healthcare team, AXIS asked McEathron and Stamatia Destounis, MD, attending radiologist at Rochester, N.Y.’s Elizabeth Wende Breast Care, for insight on five skills to look for during the hiring process.

1. Destounis, who’s also clinical professor at University of Rochester Imaging Sciences, recommends looking for ultrasound technologists who are American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography—or American Registry of Radiologic Technologists-certified in breast ultrasound; in particular, job candidates should have passed the breast sonography examination, she says.

2. Job candidates should understand the way a mammogram or an MR is positioned. This can impact the ultrasound technologist’s ability to quickly locate a target, instead of having to search for a long time to find a small mass, advises McEathron.

3. Technologists should be “independent thinkers,” insists Desounis. “There aren’t measurements you’re looking for—or a standard echotexture of the breast tissue. The sonographer must be able to think for herself and be confident in [her] ability to determine pathology based solely on each individual patient’s anatomy.”

4. An ability to embrace new techniques and technologies is important, says McEathron. The arrival of new technologies in breast care means breast ultrasound technologists must be continuous learners and have the desire to always add to their skill set, he adds.

5. Destounis stresses that a calm demeanor and an ability to explain things appropriately to patients is vital. She adds that these skills help ease patients’ anxiety.

McEathron agrees. “Patients come into the ultrasound room thinking that their worst nightmare has just come true,” he tells AXIS. “The best sonographers will put them at ease right away, regardless of the outcome, to calmly work with the patient as they perform the exam [while] keeping a professional but empathetic manner.”

Aine Cryts is a contributing writer for AXIS Imaging News.