Polk State College’s Diagnostic Medical Sonography program has achieved initial accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, a distinction that will give its graduates a competitive edge as they enter the labor market.
The accreditation means graduates of the Polk State program are immediately eligible to take the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography examination, a benchmark increasingly used by employers. Students of non-CAAHEP-accredited programs must typically work for a year or more, gaining on-the-job experience that prepares them for the ARDMS test, said Merrybeth Etherton, diagnostic medical sonography program director.
“ARDMS registration is the gold standard in sonography,” she said.
The CAAHEP accreditation process took six to eight months and included a site visit to the Airside Center, where the sonography program is housed, and interviews with Polk State students and faculty. Because Polk State followed ARDMS recommendations and guidelines from the start, no major changes to the program were required, Etherton said.
“We are so proud and excited. A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into it,” Etherton said, adding that Beth Luckett, radiography program director, initiated the accreditation process before Etherton took over the sonography program in June.
“The accreditation puts the Diagnostic Medical Sonography program at Polk State on the map.”
Etherton said the accreditation puts Polk State ahead of a national trend. Insurance companies are increasingly requiring all medical imaging professionals to pass registration examinations. In response, employers now often require job candidates to either have passed the test or be eligible to take it when hired.
Diagnostic Medical Sonography is one of several outstanding Health Sciences programs at Polk State College. Other programs under Polk State’s Health Sciences umbrella include radiography, physical therapist assistant, nursing, occupational therapy assistant, respiratory care, emergency medical services and cardiovascular technology. These programs attract students from throughout Central Florida. Health Sciences students regularly outperform their peers in the state and nation on required licensing exams.
Polk State’s Diagnostic Medical Sonography program was launched in 2007. The limited-access program will graduate its third class later this month. Through partnerships with major hospitals and clinics in Polk County, students in the program gain valuable real-life training. The program’s graduates have gone on to work at Lakeland Regional Medical Center, Bond Clinic, Winter Haven Hospital, Watson Clinic, Bartow Regional Medical Center and Highlands Regional Medical Center.