Danae Tucker knew she wanted to work in healthcare, but ended up with an economics degree after starting a pre-pharmacy major and deciding being a pharmacist just wasn’t for her. However, her marketing job for a local agricultural company wasn’t fulfilling her either.
“I had such a strong desire to be in the medical field, so I googled and googled and googled,” Tucker said of her search for the right fit. “I knew nursing was not for me. I wanted a more diagnostic role — I wanted to be in the ‘find-the-answer’ part of medicine.”
Her internet searches turned up Community Regional Medical Center’s sonography training program — considered one of the most prestigious in the nation. “It was perfect for me. It was diagnostic but non-invasive. It’s hands-on and there’s patient interaction.”
Best of all, it was local, so Tucker didn’t have to move. And her previous pre-pharmacy classes gave her nearly all the prerequisites she needed to apply.
Community’s program first to offer advanced sonography training
“It was so incredible to realize that we had such an accredited and amazing program in the Valley,” said Tucker, who was president of the recent class of 16 graduating from Community Regional’s training program. “To be part of this program is something, and then to have it in your backyard is incredible. I live 20 minutes from the hospital.”
Community Regional’s training program is one of California’s few hospital-based sonography programs — and the only one in the nation with accreditation to train in five different sonography disciplines. This includes the only accredited pediatric cardiac program in California to educate sonographers in scanning premature infants in the NICU to detect congenital heart disease. The 18-month training is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) and recently achieved ten-year reaccreditation status for the two main programs, Abdomen-OB/GYN extended and Adult Cardiac tracks.
Community Regional’s program was also the first of two in the nation (the other is Mayo Clinic) to be accredited to train Advanced Cardiac sonographers, who are able to extend the care of cardiologists, much like nurse practitioners do for physicians.
The Community Regional Advanced Cardiac Sonography Program is a hybrid program designed for working adults. It was developed to create a career track for sonographers who practice at an advanced level in the echocardiography laboratory. The program’s goal is to provide a formal educational pathway to create opportunities for clinical and administrative advancement of the echocardiographer in their respective echocardiographic laboratories.
Training graduates for hard-to-fill healthcare positions
Sonographers use high frequency sound waves, or ultrasound, to produce images of organs, tissues or blood flow inside the body to help diagnose medical conditions. Sonography is increasingly used to detect and treat heart and vascular disease. The professionals who perform these procedures are in high demand — and until recently in short supply.
“When we have critical shortages in all facets of allied health and nursing, sonography is not one of them locally,” said Joy Guthrie, director of Community’s Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program. “We are filling those hard-to-fill positions with our graduates.”
Sonography is so much more than the pregnancy ultrasounds most people think about, said Tucker, listing scans of tumors, blood vessels and heart function. “I went into this training saying there is so much more to sonography than scanning babies. And here I am scanning babies,” she said.
She works in a perinatologist office caring for women with high-risk pregnancies, and loves it: “It’s such a privilege to tell parents their baby’s gender. (It’s) such a moment.”
Tucker also picks up extra weekend shifts at Community Regional where she trained. “I still love hospital life,” she explained. “The patients we see are high-risk and critical, which gives me opportunities to learn more.”
There’s so much more to learn, so Tucker is continuing her sonography studies in vascular scanning, working toward board certification.
Community continues to expand its training opportunities and is currently conducting pilot programs for two new sonography disciplines, Advanced Perinatal Sonography and Advanced Vascular Sonography — the first in the nation. Because of these advanced training programs, Guthrie said, Stanford Medical Center sought an affiliation with Community for sonographers for its hospital.
“The success of the program is truly a team effort,” Guthrie stated, “starting with exceptional support from Community’s leadership, fantastic affiliations with regional hospitals and outpatient clinics, tireless clinical oversight by the clinical sonographers, as well as exceptional faculty and program administrative support.”
Learn more about Community Regional’s Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program.