To meet the demand for sonographers who work with children, ACC launched its Pediatric Echocardiography Program in 2011. ACC was one of the first colleges in the country to start an accredited Associate Degree program.
Students are trained to perform echocardiography (heart scans using ultrasound) to help diagnose congenital heart defects and other heart problems in children.
“I take a lot of pride in the program we developed and how well it’s been received,” DCVS Director Jessica Murphy said. “We are constantly looking for opportunities to advance the program.”
The program takes two years to complete, and new graduates earn an average of $30 an hour.
“Not just anyone can become a Pediatric Echocardiographer,” Murphy explained. “It takes a special person to perform heart scans on children because the types of defects we are looking for pose a greater challenge than those in an adult patient.”
“Young children may be afraid of the process and will often struggle during efforts to do the testing, which can also make the exam more difficult to perform,” she noted.
ACC had its first pediatric echocardiography graduates in 2013. Many said they felt that the pediatric specialty was a calling.
“It’s a tough job, but you get to see these kids grow up, you get to know the families, and you get to witness miracles every day,” graduate Veronica Castaneda said.
Students learn to deal with worried parents and siblings who accompany the young patients in the examination room. A pediatric echocardiographer must be able to perform a thorough scan while managing the stress of families.
Pediatric scans largely focus on problems such as congenital heart defects, interventions and repairs. Due to the severity of their heart problems, many children require monitoring from before birth and often throughout their entire lives. Patients receive scans as they undergo multiple surgeries to correct defects, as well as afterward.
It’s a highly technical field, and it takes a highly-trained individual to perform the task, Murphy explained. “They have special qualities such as being able to multitask, perform complicated scans that thoroughly evaluate issues, while keeping the child distracted or entertained.”
Students learn by conducting free scans on children in the community. Volunteering for a heart scan at the college is easy and could potentially save a life by identifying undiagnosed structural heart problems before symptoms even occur or become serious.
To volunteer for a free heart scan call 281-756-5625.
Among the many unique Allied Health programs at ACC is Polysomnography, which focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders.
ACC was the first college in the state to offer an accredited Associate Degree in Polysomnography. There are only 20 such programs throughout the country.
“I am proud that ACC was the first college in Texas to create this degree program,” Polysomnography Director Georgette Goodwill said. “Our graduates are highly sought in the field.”
The program’s first graduates finished in 2008. The 2013 class was the first to post a 100 percent pass rating on the national Board of Registered Polysomnography Techologists registry exam.
Industry leaders are now seeking more registered technologists and ACC has been meeting the demand.
ACC graduates often find positions before they finish, or just after receiving, their degree.
“Local sleep laboratories often contact me on a regular basis looking to hire our graduates,” Goodwill noted.
When surgeons operate on the nervous system, they need precise information about their patient’s nerve activity.
To meet that need, ACC will launch its Interoperative Monitoring program in the spring 2015 semester to train neurodiagnostic technicians. It is the first and only such program in Texas.
Interoperative Monitoring is part of the Neurodiagnostic Technology field. To be eligible for the program, students must have prerequisite courses in Anatomy and Physiology, and at least an Associate Degree.
Certified technicians monitor patients’ nervous systems during spinal surgeries or cranial operations. The monitoring helps protect nerve functions during surgical procedures.
“You are responsible for ensuring that each nerve functions properly,” Neurodiagnostic Technology Director Angelia Klaproth said. “This is a vital role in the surgeon’s operating team.”