The Alvin Community College Pediatric Echocardiography program became the first in Texas and among the first in the country to receive accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) upon recommendation of the Joint Review Committee for Diagnostic Medical Sonography (JRC-DMS).
The college received notice of the accreditation on Monday, January 20th after a site visit by JRC-DMS representatives in April 2013.
“It’s such a relief,” said Jessica Murphy, Diagnostic Cardiovascular Sonography program director. “It was a lot of work but it was worth it. Now the program will be nationally visible.”
The lengthy process began with a formal request for accreditation and detailed self-study performed by the program director at ACC. The self-study was then peer-reviewed by JRC-DMS followed by an official site visit to inspect the program further. Once assured that the program was in substantial compliance with all the required CAAHEP standards, the JRC-DMS recommended the program for official vote of accreditation from the CAAHEP board. Accreditation was then awarded after approval by CAAHEP officials.
The first class of Pediatric Echocardiography students graduated in Spring 2013. The three students said they were proud to be among the first to have a degree from an accredited program. “We’re just so honored to be the first class,” said graduate Heather Williams, of Alvin.
The first graduating class included Bailey Farmer, of Sugar Land, Ana Arreola of Alvin and Williams. Each graduate has successfully obtained their registry as a Pediatric Echocardiographer and is working in the field. They all find their new profession very rewarding.
The college’s Diagnostic Cardiovascular instructors chose to start a Pediatric program because of the unmet need in the healthcare industry for sonographers who specialize in dealing with children and congenital heart defects.
“There’s a big demand out there,” said Sue Poston, clinical director of the program at ACC.
It takes a special person to perform heart scans on children because kids pose a greater challenge than an adult patient, Murphy said.
Children are often afraid of the process and will often fight efforts to do the testing, she said.
“Not just anybody can be a pediatric echocardiographer,” Murphy said. “We do have a need for it locally. The demand has really increased.”
The program takes two years or more to complete. The average salary for a new graduate is roughly $30 an hour.
Pediatric scans largely focus on problems such as congenital heart defects, corrections, and repairs. Due to the nature of their heart problems, these children are followed from in the womb where a fetal echocardiogram will identify the initial problem, through the temporary measures performed to keep them alive. They continue to receive scans as they undergo multiple surgeries to correct these defects and receive follow up scans. It’s a very highly technical filed and it takes a specially trained individual to perform the task, Murphy said.
Pediatric Sonographers also must deal with worried parents who are in the room with the young patients and sometimes their siblings, students said. The room can get quite busy and even be distracting at times so the sonographer must be able to perform a thorough scan while still working with families and young patients.
“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,” said student Veronica Castaneda, of Alvin.
For more information about the DCVS program, visit www.alvincollege.edu/DCVS or call 281-756-5625.