'Truly exceptional': WC's sonography program continues to produce at high level

Weatherford College Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program Director Kelly Staub shows trustees an illustration of the graduation success rates compared to national averages.

WEATHERFORD — Weatherford College President Tod Allen Farmer told trustees at last week’s meeting that all of the school’s allied health programs are performing at “truly exceptional” levels.

It was a statement amplified by Kelly Staub Thursday, who oversees the Diagnostic Medical Sonography Program at Weatherford College.

“Many times when people think about sonography, they think about happy moments, like scanning an expecting mother and telling them they’re having a boy or girl, but we do so much more than that,” she said. “We do get to experience those moments but we’re also responsible for watching that baby grow through pregnancy, and making sure nothing needs to be addressed after the baby is born.”

And mothers aren’t the only focus. Sonography students play an integral role in overall health, looking at images of a gallbladder, for instance, and identifying gallstones.

“Through our program, students learn what normal anatomy looks like and what abnormal anatomy looks like,” Staub said. “They can take images and send them to the physician so they can diagnose what is going on with patients.”

Another aspect is vascular ultrasounds, like taking images of a carotid artery. 

“Students really focus on this during their second year, and how to scan every muscle in the body,” the program director said.

Staub, who began in 2016 with coordinator Tessa Gray, said she loves teaching the students as well as what the program, accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs, does.

That national accreditation means students can take registries over abdomen, OB/GYN and vascular 60 days prior to graduation, allowing them to immediately be able to get jobs after they graduate.

The program is an academically rigorous one, spread out over five semesters, or 22 months, and combines class, labs and clinicals.

“Every semester they’re learning information in class, they’re practicing in lab and then they’re going to clinicals and putting that knowledge to use scanning real patients with monographers by their side,” Staub said.

And when they’re not learning, they’re volunteering in the community, through Angel Tree, Freedom House, food banks and blood drives, to name a few.

“We see students from all walks of life, from single mothers ... to people with grandchildren or children in high school,” Staub said. “I love that we get to work with so many different people.”

The majority of applicants naturally come from the Lone Star State, but the program director said they’re beginning to see more from all over the country, particularly now that the program has been named best ultrasound technologist school in Texas, thanks to Nursing Process.

Four months ago, the program graduated its first international student from Japan.

“She told us she researched programs all across America, over 250,” Staub said. “And she didn’t know English so she spent a year in Canada to learn English, then she moved into the dorms.

“She was the first student in class to pass all three registries and now she works at one of the larger hospitals in Fort Worth.”

On average, the sonography program sees about 70 applications. From there, the top 35-40 are interviewed, with the top 20 students accepted based on a strict points system.

 While only 4 percent of sonographers in America are triple registered, meaning they have passed three or more of these registry exams, 94 percent of WC sonography graduates from the past five years are triple registered.

The graduation success rates are off the charts — literally — when compared to the national averages.

For instance, only 69 percent of students nationally passed their abdomen registry on the first try compared to WC’s 100 percent in 2019-2022; 79 percent passed OB/GYN compared to WC’s 100 percent in 19-22; and 68 percent passed vascular on their first attempt, with the college netting 100 percent in 2019, 2020 and 2022, and 94 percent in 2021.

To a question by board member G.B. Bailey, Staub said her students are highly sought after by medical facilities, with positive feedback from clinical sights where the students work.

“Most of the time, our graduates already have a job within a few weeks to a month [after graduation],” she said.

She noted that the starting pay rate ranges from $30-$34 an hour, though a recent program graduate found a job at $39 an hour in May.

“When we talk about Weatherford College changes lives, we really feel we get to see that every year,” Staub said.

To find out more about the program, visit wc.edu/programs/all-programs/vascular-certificate/

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