Frequently Asked Questions

How long is Westmoreland’s Diagnostic Medical Sonography program?

Once accepted into Westmoreland’s DMS program, students can complete the program in two years.

Do I really need to send my high school transcript?

Yes! The final OFFICIAL high school transcript is a mandatory requirement for the admission procedure. Do not assume for any reason that the college has your transcript…check with Admissions. The high school transcript is still required even if a student has a bachelor’s degree. It is always best to check with the Office of Admissions to confirm that your transcript is on file. You do not want to have this missing and not be eligible to take the NLN examination. To check the status of your high school transcript you can contact Admissions at 724.925.4077.

Are the Accuplacer test and the NLN examination the same thing?

No. The Accuplacer test is Westmoreland’s placement assessment for math and English. This test will indicate if a student needs developmental work in these two areas. The required developmental courses need to be completed with a letter grade of “C” or above before the student can take the NLN examination.

If I am trying to get into the DMS program, can I have my pre-admission requirements and developmental courses and/or program prerequisite in progress during the semester that the test is given and still be eligible to take the NLN test?

No. You must have the developmental courses and/or program prerequisite completed prior to applying to the Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program. All requirements must be completed by the January 5 application deadline.

How long will it take to find out if I am accepted into the Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program?

You will not find out if you are accepted into the DMS program until approximate one to two months after the completion of the NLN test. Please do not call the college to find out if you have been accepted. We are unable to tell you over the phone. You will be notified in writing by the college if you were accepted into the DMS program. You will also be notified if you were NOT accepted into the program.

If I have general education courses completed, is the DMS program still two years?

Yes. The DMS courses are offered in a sequence; therefore making the program the full two years. However, by completing general education courses that the program requires will lighten a student’s course load.

If I have general education courses completed from another college and they are required for the DMS program, can they be applied to Westmoreland’s program?

In most cases, if the student has a Bachelors or Associates Degree from another college OR if the courses have been taken less than ten years ago with a grade of “C” or above, the college will transfer the courses in. The student will need to supply Westmoreland with official transcripts from all colleges that they wish to have courses transferred from, and submit a completed Transfer of Credit form (obtained from the Admissions office) and the Admissions Coordinator must evaluate the transcripts to complete the process.

Do I need to complete all of my physicals, clearances, etc. now?

No. Once a student has been accepted to the program these requirements will be explained to the accepted students at the orientation meeting held by the Director of the Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program. Students are informed of this meeting in their acceptance letter.

What are the hours of the DMS program?

The hours will vary from semester to semester depending on the courses. All DMS courses including clinical time are offered during the day. The DMS courses during the first year will normally run two days a week from 8:00 AM and conclude approximately 3:00 PM. This does not take into account for non-DMS courses. During the second year clinical will be three days a week from 8 a.m.– 4:30 p.m. with DMS classes running from approximately 8: a.m. – 3 p.m. two days a week.

Do I really need to become certified?

Yes. Employers are becoming very stringent on this matter. Facilities are paid for testing by medical reimbursement from the insurance companies. Most if not all insurance companies will only give payment to facilities that are “Accredited”. For a facility to become accredited sonographers must be certified or registered in sonography within a designated amount of time.

Is there a certification or credentialing examination that is required after graduation in order to be employed?

Yes. You can be hired with a stipulation that you are required to pass credentialing exams. The “National Registry” is offered by The American Registry of Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS). Upon completion of the program you may work as a “Graduate Sonographer” until you pass your “Boards”. Most, but not all facilities will give a “Graduate Sonographer” approximately one year to become certified. If during that time you do not become certified most facilities will let the non-certified employee go. (Fired) For the “Boards” you must pass the Sonography Principles and Instrumentation and an ARDMS specialty examination (Abdomen or Obstetrics and Gynecology) to become certified. The Program Director will assist you with registration for the National Registry prior to completion of the DMS program.

What is the price of the registry?

Each exam is approximately $200.00 and is not included in the program. You may look on the ARDMS website for more information.

Do I need to have this certification renewed? If so, what is the process?

Yes. The two requirements for maintaining an active status with the American Registry for
Diagnostic Medical Sonography (ARDMS) are listed below:

  1. You must earn a minimum of 30 ARDMS-accepted Continuing Medical Education credits (CMEs) in a three-year period.
  2. You must pay your renewal fee each year. CMEs are offered at ultrasound seminars in the region and also online at approved websites.

Where do sonographers work?

Sonographers are employed by hospitals, imaging centers and private physician offices. New graduates will be employed primarily in the hospital setting.

What are the duties of a sonographer?

  • Performs procedures to obtain diagnostic images to be read by a physician
  • Obtains and records accurate patient history
  • Analyzes technical information
  • Provides quality patient care
  • Works as part of the health care team4

What is a typical day in the life of a sonographer?

A sonographer usually works an eight-hour shift and during that time completes 10-12 ultrasound scans along with required paperwork and documentation. This involves interaction with patients, physicians and other health care professionals. The sonographer provides quality patient care. Ultrasound cases can be “added on” to the schedule each day, and then sonographers will be required to work additional hours. Schedule changes play a role in the stressful demands of the career.

Is the sonographer’s job physically demanding?

Yes. You may be on your feet most of the day. You need to be able to help transfer patients from wheelchairs to stretchers, move ultrasound equipment to other hospital areas, and assist as needed in the hospital.

Does sonography just involve scanning babies?

No. Sonographers image many parts of the body. (Liver, gallbladder, pancreas, aorta, spleen, kidneys, uterus, ovaries, prostate, breast, thyroid, testicles, carotid arteries, and arteries and veins in the legs)

Part of the sonography career includes being “on call”. What does that mean?

Depending upon the facility, sonographers will be required to be available (on call) to be called back in to the department after hours, on weekends, and holidays. For example if your shift is over at 5 PM, you could drive home and be called back to the hospital at 8 PM. Return home to sleep and be called back to the hospital again at 2 AM. You are still required to work at 8:30 AM the next day.

What role do sonographers play in patient care?

Sonographers must take care of the patient while in the department. The sonographer may deal with patient issues such as vomiting, bleeding, and dealing with bed pans and urinals.

Do sonographers deal with needles, blood, and/or body fluids?
Yes. Sonographers are patient care givers and indeed deal with all these items and also go the ER, ICU, CCU, and OR.

How competitive is the DMS program?

It is very competitive. We have approximately 100 applicants for 15-20 positions.

Can the DMS program be completed part-time?

No. A full time commitment is required. This is a very difficult and rigorous program.

What will be my expenses for the program?

There are multiple expenses including:

  • Initial and subsequent health screening
  • Criminal background check
  • Child abuse clearance and FBI finger printing
  • Drug screening and Hepatitis vaccinations
  • Uniforms and name tag
  • Books
  • Student liability insurance
  • Travel to and from college and clinical facility
  • Parking at the clinical facility

Please plan your finances for the program. Keep in mind the cost of gas and auto expenses. (Costs are subject to change)

Where would I do my clinical rotations?

Faculty assigns you to an imaging facility. Students do not get to choose locations. Students may be assigned to several clinical sites for specific learning outcomes. Facilities may be as far as 60–80 miles away from Youngwood.

What is the job market like?
Nationally there is a great demand for sonographers. The job market in western PA may be limited due to the number of graduates in the area and the current economy.