The planning stage for the Diagnostic Medical Sonography (DMS) program started in earnest in 2006. We accepted the first class into our program in 2008 and the first cohort graduated in 2010.
Where is the program available?
Our Associate of Applied Science program is located on the Medical Education Campus of NOVA in Springfield, Virginia. The program is overseen by Anita Freeman, BSRDMS, RVT, APA, RTR, the assistant dean of sonography.
Why did your program make the commitment to acquire and retain CAAHEP programmatic accreditation?
CAAHEP accreditation is the gold standard in the ultrasound community today and NOVA is committed to supporting the principles of higher education. This marriage of ideals extends to NOVA students, the medical community and faculty and staff. We know that the education of the next generation of ultrasound professionals is our responsibility and that is taken very seriously.
How have your students and faculty benefited from being a CAAHEP accredited educational program?
Now that the program has successfully completed the accreditation process, the degree restrictions previously imposed on past student cohorts will no longer apply. Enrollment will now be opened to a broader base of students who have completed all program-specific requirements. This has been most helpful to students who for many reasons did not have a bachelor’s degree or other allied health degree as required from the ARDMS for non-accredited programs. Faculty has benefited by having a guideline in which they can continually develop innovative materials and resources for student sonographers.
How have employers in your region benefited from having graduates from a CAAHEP accredited program available as prospective employees?
The program is currently affiliated with several medical facilities with locations surrounding the Northern Virginia area and points beyond. Their partnership with NOVA in this program is essential for the successful training of qualified sonographers. They can hire our graduates with the knowledge that they as well as the DMS program at NOVA have met the quality standards outlined by CAAHEP.
Describe some of the positive aspects of CAAHEP accreditation and your relationship/partnership with your clinical education sites.
There is an expectation for both parties of excellence in training and professionalism. As a joint partnership in the students’ training, NOVA has forged a strong bond in providing an educational experience that is relevant in today’s work place. NOVA’s clinical sites were included in much of the accreditation process, so they were very aware of how rigorous it was. Going through the process together has given everyone involved a better understanding of what is important from a quality standpoint. Employers are now more likely to hire our graduates because they know we have met and/or exceeded the guidelines developed by CAAHEP.
What are some things that sonographers and physicians in your region say about your CAAHEP accredited program?
NOVA has been very fortunate to have such a successful collaborative partnership and the support of several hospitals in our area from the program planning stage to present. They were all very happy for us and sent comments such as, “We are honored and pleased to be a clinical site for this high-quality (and much needed) program. We personally appreciate your very professional and qualified leadership.” This continued encouragement is reflected everyday in so many ways and is deeply appreciated by the DMS program faculty and staff.
What tips/suggestions do you have for education programs that are considering pursuing CAAHEP programmatic accreditation?
There is no doubt that this is a daunting project for anyone to take on. Its success will depend on understanding the process as a whole. This is certainly a team effort, and one person cannot and should not try to do this on their own. It is essential that everyone on the team plays a part and follows through. It would benefit the program (especially the first time you vie for accreditation) to have a mentor or experienced hand who has been through the process before. They can help guide the program director more efficiently through the enormous amount of paperwork and help avoid areas that may be problematic.