Sound the Alarm: The Sonographer Shortage Is Echoing Across Healthcare

Daniel Won*, James Walker, Russ Horowitz, Sandeep Bharadwaj, Edward Carlton, Helena Gabriel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objectives: The growth in ultrasound usage necessitates concurrent growth in the number of sonographers. Despite the increasing importance of ultrasound, there is a shortage of sonographers in the United States that has never been specifically quantified. This study examines recent trends in the number of ultrasound exams, sonography graduates, open sonographer positions, and wages. Methods: This retrospective study uses public databases and surveys including the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and Zippia, a human resources platform to determine metrics. These metrics include the number of ultrasound exams conducted in the United States (excluding inpatient setting), number of sonographers and sonographer wages, sonography graduates, and open sonographer positions. Results: Ultrasound exams in the United States from 2011 to 2021 increased from 38.6 million to 59.8 million (+55.1%,) while the number of sonographers (2011–2021) increased from 54,760 to 78,640 (+43.6%). There was a significant difference between supply and demand of sonographers with the number of sonography graduates (2011–2021) increasing from 4,386 to 5,393 (+23.0%) while the number of open sonographer positions (2012–2021) increased from 18,462 to 25,162 (+36.3%). Conclusions: From 2011 to 2021, the increase in the number of ultrasound exams has significantly outpaced the increase in the number of sonographers. Furthermore, the increase in demand for sonographers has grown significantly faster than the supply, leading to a shortage and consequent strain on the healthcare system. To address the shortage, the number of sonography school openings should be increased, and the attendant challenges addressed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1289-1301
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Ultrasound in Medicine
Volume43
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2024

Keywords

  • shortage of sonographers
  • sonographer open positions
  • sonographer wages
  • sonography education
  • sonography graduates
  • ultrasound exams

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging

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