Susan J Soney
Diagnostic Medical Sonographer, currently working as the clinical coordinator for the ultrasound department at Victoria Hospital, London Health Science Centre, London, Ontario
Do you self-identify as First Nations, Métis, or Inuit? If yes, with what community do you affiliate?
First Nations - Bkejwanong Walpole Island First Nation
What is a typical day like for you?
Very busy and never boring!
As a coordinator, I currently manage a staff of 25 technologists and 17 ultrasound rooms. My day usually starts at 9:00 am with answering urgent emails and voice mail. The staff schedules must be updated for shift changes, sick call-ins and vacation coverage. Daily there are many urgent ultrasounds that require ‘triage’. That is, determining how urgent the request is or can the patient wait for a few hours.
As an ultrasound technologist you will take pictures of the inside of the body to help the doctor determine what is wrong with a patient. I’m sure all of you know someone that has had an ultrasound. Usually this person may be having a baby and you may have seen a ‘picture ‘of the baby. Sometimes the sonographer (ultrasound technologist) may take the ultrasound machine to different parts of the hospital for patients who are too sick to come to the department. Some days we have to go help the doctor in the operating room. Ultrasound uses sounds waves to produce the image on the screen. There is no radiation produced like with x-ray.
What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
Working with people.
Every day there is always something new to learn from someone.
Working with patients and helping to determine what is wrong with them. You get a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.
What is the least enjoyable part of your job?
Working with people.
Why? It can be very frustrating because of the many demands of your job, your boss, and other personalities you meet or have to work with. But try to look at each ‘challenge’ as a learning opportunity.
Explain the path you took to get to this job (education, internships, etc.).
In high school, I studied all the advanced sciences (biology, chemistry, physics and advanced math courses. I then enrolled in the 2 year medical radiation program at Fanshawe College in London, Ontario and graduated as an x-ray technologist. When I graduated, there were very few jobs in Canada for an x-ray tech so I worked for 9 years in the United States at a private x-ray clinic (having dual citizenship does have its perks). Unfortunately our clinic closed and it was at that time that I applied to the diagnostic medical sonographer program at Mohawk College in Hamilton. The program was only 1 year because I already had completed the program at Fanshawe.
Did you experience any obstacles or challenges on your path?
Many challenges, being away from home for the first time was the biggest. The first few months are the hardest. If you can make it back after Thanksgiving, that’s good. If you can make it back after Christmas, you will have a better chance of completing your year. Also learning how the ‘live on your own’: figuring out the bus schedule, making and buying your food, trying the budget your money and meeting so many new people. But doing all of this makes you appreciate home and guess what; it is all part of growing up.
How did you overcome these obstacles or challenges?
I tried not to be afraid and did my best in school. I learned how to ‘get along’ with others and treated others the way I wanted to be treated. Also a smile goes a long way.
Who or what was the greatest influence that set you on this path?
Probably my parents, my Dad worked for the federal government and he took pride in his work. My Mom stayed at home working part-time when she could. She only had a grade 7 education but she too took pride in all that she did.
I really didn’t know what I wanted to do in grade 12. The guidance counselling office at school took us on a tour of our local hospital during the school year for ’career day’. When we walked through the X-ray department, I thought it was kind of cool, taking pictures of the body. So that summer I approached Indian Affairs and asked if there was money available for me to work in the hospital. Would they fund me for 8 weeks if I could find a job? They said yes. I then spoke to the person in charge of the x-ray department to find out if there was anything I could do for the summer. They agreed I could be an assistant to the x-ray technologists. It was a great 8 week experience and the following year in grade 13, I applied to the x-ray program.
What advice would you give others seeking a similar job?
Call and arrange a visit to the x-ray department. They will be more than willing to let you come and see how the department works. There are many imaging programs now available since x-ray has expanded into many different and interesting areas: x-ray, ultrasound, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), CT (computed tomography), angiography or interventional x-ray and many smaller sub specialities within the areas.
How does your job make a difference?
You are helping people who are sick. The information provided helps the doctor determine what to do to make someone well again.
How do you use science, math and technology in your job?
You apply all of the sciences by understanding how the energy from the ultrasound machine produces the image on the screen. When you take pictures, you have to adjust the amount of energy so you can produce a diagnostic image. This is what the doctor looks at or reads to determine what is wrong with the patient. Sometimes you have to measure or take a volume measurement of an area. Another part of the job is to understand how diseases work, this is pathology and physiology. You apply this knowledge every day. At other times, your equipment may not be working so you need to ‘trouble shoot’ to try find out what’s wrong before you have to call for a repair.
Is there one course you wish you had taken but didn’t? Why?
Probably gone to university and received my degree first. Why? If you want to advance in your career you would be very wise to get your degree otherwise you get to a point that you can’t advance anymore. And of course, advancing usually means more money.
What makes this job right for you?
I still enjoy getting up every morning and coming to work. No matter what you do, where you end up, you need to be happy at your job. Then you know that it’s right.
What's the most bizarre or silliest thing you’ve ever done in this job?
I once was involved with ultrasound research for diabetes and had to ultrasound a rat’s eye and its heart.
What activities do you like to do outside of work?
I like to garden and golf and mostly hang out with my family and friends.
You just won $10 million! What’s the first thing you’d do?
Pay all my bills off, give some to my family, give some to charity and buy 3 new ultrasound machines, one for each hospital in London.