Can Nurses Perform Ultrasounds?

Yes, nurses can perform limited obstetrical ultrasounds on patients.

In addition, some nurses perform ultrasound-guided peripheral IV placements during intravenous (PIV) catheters or line insertions.

However, they must possess the proper training or certifications to conduct these ultrasound tests.

Ultrasound examinations are becoming increasingly important in diagnosing and treating various conditions.

As a result, obtaining training/certification in domains like ultrasound allows nurses to help more patients and enhance their career opportunities.

These nurses are also more likely to make more money, receive overtime, and secure better positions because of their knowledge, training, and expertise.

With that said, let’s discuss what nurses need to perform ultrasound examinations.

Ultrasound Training

Nurses interested in performing ultrasounds must receive adequate training or certification.

Those who pursue limited training require several hours of education followed by oversight from a medical professional.

This level of training allows nurses to perform ultrasounds in a limited capacity.

For instance, nurses with limited ultrasound training may perform limited obstetrical ultrasounds, point-of-care ultrasounds, or ultrasound-guided peripheral IV placements.

This training does provide more flexibility in job responsibilities and offers more opportunities for career growth.

However, it doesn’t provide the same advanced sonography duties as ultrasound technicians/sonographers.

In addition, whether nurses can perform limited ultrasounds depends on the healthcare facilities’ needs and the nurse’s scope of practice.

Not all locations provide sonography/ultrasound training or allow nurses to perform ultrasounds.

Therefore, you must consult the healthcare facility you work for to determine whether they’ll train you in sonography.

Some locations like OB/GYN, emergency departments, and long-term care facilities may offer limited training if it requires additional support.

You can also contact a local college/university to see if they offer limited ultrasound technician courses for nurses.

Obtaining an Ultrasound Technician Degree/Certificate

The other route for nurses who want to perform ultrasounds is to get an ultrasound technician degree/certificate.

Obtaining an ultrasound certificate/degree does not require working as a nurse or having a nursing license.

However, you can earn a certificate or ultrasound technician degree if you’re a nurse.

It requires students to earn a 1-year certificate or an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, which requires 2 – 4 years of education at an accredited institution.

Nurses serious about performing ultrasounds may want to obtain an ultrasound technician certificate as it’s the fastest way to become certified.

Ultimately, nurses must consider whether learning sonography is essential for them and their careers.

It does open up new career paths for those interested in other healthcare domains.

However, it isn’t necessarily beneficial for all types of nursing professions.

Ultrasound Technician Responsibilities

Ultrasound technicians perform various responsibilities to ensure proper patient care, manage diagnostic information and maintain medical equipment.

It includes analyzing diagnostic imaging, performing diagnostic/ultrasound procedures, operating medical tools, and equipment maintenance.

They may also schedule appointments, handle/update documents, communicate test results and oversee various reports.

Ultrasound Technician Duties:

  • Perform clinical assessments
  • Conduct sonography exams
  • Manage and maintain equipment
  • Retain a clean and sanitary facility
  • Coordinate schedule with healthcare departments
  • Set patient appointments
  • Log patients and update various reports
  • Analyze patient medical history and sonograms

Ultrasound responsibilities differ among nurses with limited ultrasound training and professional ultrasound technicians/sonographers.

For instance, nurses with limited training cannot interpret the same diagnostic tests that ultrasound technicians/sonography analyze.

They may also be limited in utilizing and maintaining special medical equipment related to ultrasounds.

Where do Healthcare Professionals Utilize Sonography?

Healthcare professionals who perform ultrasounds work across multiple healthcare settings.

It includes hospitals, long-term care facilities, doctors’ offices, and outpatient care centers.

Some technicians also work in educational facilities or colleges/universities to educate students on sonography.

Each location has distinctive demands and benefits for those performing ultrasounds/sonography.

For instance, ultrasound technicians in educational environments work with students to educate them on performing ultrasounds.

They spend little or no time working directly in patient care, so their application is largely educational.

On the other hand, ultrasound technicians in long-term care facilities may perform routine ultrasound exams to determine a patient’s medical condition and recovery status.

Ultrasounds in direct patient care settings are crucial for determining a patient’s diagnosis and developing treatment plans.

Places Ultrasound Technicians Work:

  • Hospitals
  • Clinics
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Doctors offices
  • General and surgical departments
  • Medical and diagnostic laboratories
  • Outpatient care centers
  • Educational facilities
  • Colleges/universities
  • Pregnancy center/OB/BYN

Ultrasound technicians may work in several other settings to accommodate different healthcare needs.

However, these above occupations/locations are the most common places for ultrasound technicians to operate.

Is Ultrasound Training Useful?

As previously mentioned, ultrasounds allow healthcare professionals to assess their patient’s health better.

It allows them to accurately diagnose medical conditions and devise treatment plans to ensure optimal treatment/recovery.

In addition, ultrasounds provide further visual data inaccessible to other medical equipment.

As a result, nurses and sonographers perform ultrasounds and play a significant role in healthcare.

Their ability to accurately identify different patient ailments/conditions ensure they receive adequate medical care and treatment.

It also makes the job of medical professionals easier because they understand their conditions and can apply the proper procedures necessary to help their patients.

Can Nurses Interpret Ultrasounds?

According to the Arizona State Board of Nursing, some registered nurses can interpret limited obstetric, gynecologic, and reproductive ultrasounds.

Nevertheless, performing and interpreting limited ultrasounds must be within the registered nurse’s scope of practice.

Registered nurses must also receive sufficient training and certification to use ultrasound machines adequately and interpret the results.

Many states and healthcare facilities have specific policies and regulations regarding healthcare practices and procedures.

As a result, whether registered nurses can perform ultrasounds partly depends on the particular state or facility rules. 

How Long is Limited Obstetric Ultrasound Training?

Registered nurses can take a comprehensive limited ultrasound training program.

Some training programs offer a three-day limited obstetric ultrasound course.

Other programs provide up to 36 hours of training, stretched over multiple days.

In addition to the training course, nurses must complete 50 – 75 supervised scans.

An RDMS and the medical director for the Pregnancy Medical Clinic must oversee these scans, according to NIFLA.

Can Nurse Practitioners Perform Ultrasounds?

Yes, nurse practitioners can perform ultrasounds.

However, they must receive adequate training and certification to use the ultrasound machine and interpret the results.

Nurse practitioners can pursue point-of-care ultrasound training (POCUS) to learn how to use the equipment sufficiently.

It enables them to accurately obtain and interpret images, which is necessary for NPs practicing in the ICU.