Why I Love Working with Sonographers

Why I Love Working with Sonographers

This Medical Ultrasound Awareness Month, I wanted to write a post about the reasons I love working with sonographers. I am a Clinical Psychologist by background, but I’ve been researching in obstetric ultrasound for around seven years. It has been a fantastic learning experience! Amongst other ventures, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with sonographers, policy makers, people with lived experience and representative groups to generate consensus guidelines for delivering unexpected news in obstetric ultrasound (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1742271X20935911). Building on this, I am now working with these groups to evaluate a coaching programme to support sonographers with unexpected news (https://judithjohnsonphd.com/indira-coach/). There are numerous reasons why I enjoy working with sonographers, but I’ve picked out my top three to share with you:

  1. The interpersonal work of sonographers is important. I have spoken to many people with lived experience of receiving unexpected pregnancy news, who have described this moment in the ultrasound room as a turning point in their lives. Often, they have said that the caring way their sonographer communicated this information to them made a huge difference in helping them to process it. Some can recall the words that their sonographer used and hold on to them in the years to come as a positive memory. It is a privilege to work with sonographers and support them with this important task. At first, when I started on this work, I was regularly told that the project wasn’t important, but this attitude has changed in recent years. We were delighted in 2020 when our Consensus Guidelines for News Delivery in Ultrasound were covered by BBC News https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RF9mdw6XW1M.  To me, this reflected how much things are changing – and how the public is coming to recognise the importance of the interpersonal work of obstetric sonographers, too.
  2. The work of ultrasound practitioners is uniquely challenging. Obstetric sonography requires a high degree of technical skill alongside adept communication abilities. This combination and type of challenge is unique in healthcare; no other professionals are required to ascertain and communicate diagnostic findings on the spot. Yet, due to sonography’s relative newness as a discipline, there is much less research into how we can support sonographers than there is with more established disciplines, like medicine. This gap can be stressful for sonographers, who report high levels of burnout, which have increased since the onset of the pandemic. However, it is also creating opportunities for innovation – to ask, how can we support sonographers better? Many of the sonographers I collaborate with are focused on this question too, and it is exciting to be able to contribute to their projects.
  3. The UK ultrasound community is energetic and dynamic. I began researching in ultrasound in around 2015. Since then, I have had the opportunity to speak to and work with sonographers who are leading and developing the discipline in different, positive directions. From improving support for qualified sonographers, to lobbying for better regulation in the industry, and innovating training pathways, it is an exciting time to be a sonographer and to work with sonographers. The UK ultrasound community is also internationally leading; improvements made here will have global influence. Being able to contribute to projects, even in a small way, is a fantastic opportunity to generate positive impact.

The post-pandemic onset NHS is demanding, and sonographers have faced more challenges in the past few years than ever before. The support which is provided to sonographers needs to respond to these challenges, and I feel fortunate to be able to be a part of this work.  

A blog post by Clinical Psychologist, Judith Johnson