A Day in the Life: Amanda Bielec, cardiac sonographer

February 10, 2020  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

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Across the organization, thousands of employees spend their days carrying out exceptional patient care, education and research.

But each individual’s role is unique — and with that in mind, the A Day in the Life Headlines series introduces an employee and gives readers a snapshot of their daily life at Michigan Medicine.

In honor of Heart Month, meet Amanda Bielec, who has been a cardiac sonographer at Michigan Medicine for nearly 15 years. Amanda and her colleagues perform a variety of heart ultrasounds — which allow physicians to diagnose and treat various diseases. Her team meets with close to 100 patients each day.

6:15 a.m.: Amanda arrives at the academic medical center before her shift begins to take some time to practice her faith.

“I am very faith-filled, which helps me get through the good and the bad,” Amanda said. “I truly feel as though it provides me armor for the day ahead.”

After reading through a Bible devotion, Amanda preps for her shift, which officially begins at 7 a.m.

7 a.m.: Amanda and her coworkers begin preparing the lab for a full day ahead. That involves turning on the echocardiogram machines and desktop computers, and ensuring that the crash carts are fully stocked.

7:55 a.m.: The team holds its daily huddle to discuss the patients on that day’s schedule. Once the huddle is over, each sonographer goes to their assigned lab room.

“We are each assigned to a different room to perform different types of testing each day,” Amanda said. “This helps us maintain our skills with every kind of test.”

8 a.m.: Amanda’s first patient has a blood stream infection, so a physician has requested a standard echocardiogram. The test — also known as a TTE or transthoracic echocardiogram — is an ultrasound that uses a specific probe and gel to transmit sound waves to visualize the heart anatomy.

While the physical well-being of their patients is of the most concern, Amanda and her team take the time to make individuals comfortable in every way possible.

“This patient was quite anxious because they had never had this test before,” Amanda said. “So I brought them to the testing room, explained the test, asked if they had questions and if they were ready to precede. Only then did I perform the exam.”

Amanda’s duties don’t end once the TTE is over: “As I walked the patient back to the lobby, they didn’t know the way to Taubman Center for the next appointment, so I walked them much of the way to make sure they wouldn’t get lost.”

Once back in the lab, Amanda writes up a report of the exam and hands it to an echocardiologist to review and interpret.

9 a.m.: It’s time for another TTE — this time for a patient who is there to see if they qualify for a TAVR, or transcatheter aortic valve replacement. For this type of patient, a sonographer must carry out additional imaging specific to the aortic valve.

All goes smoothly; in fact, smoothly enough that the patient falls asleep during the testing.

10 a.m.: A patient cancels. This opens up a number of choices for Amanda: she can pick up a patient from another sonographer (if they are running behind or a patient arrived early), or she can write up her reports. Today, she picks up another patient.

11 a.m.: Amanda has a chance to work on and proofread her reports.

Noon: Time for lunch! She runs down to the UH Café and grabs soup and a sandwich as she preps for the afternoon.

12:30 p.m.: A patient arrives for a Dobutamine stress echo, which measures how well the heart performs while undergoing stress.

“I work closely with one of our nurses for this type of test, as it involves an infusion of Dobutamine, which is a heart stimulating medication,” Amanda said. During the test, she gets four pictures of the walls of the heart at each stage of dosing — looking to see if the heart is acting as it should.

“We are looking for abnormal or too vigorous of motion,” Amanda said. “Either way, it’s a sign to stop the stress test.”

1:30 p.m.: With her next patient not scheduled to arrive for another hour, Amanda answers some questions for a colleague and then types up reports.

2:30 p.m.: It’s time for another TTE, however, this time there appears to be some complications.

“As I placed the probe on the patient’s chest for the first image, I could tell immediately that I was going to need clearance from one of our doctors to release them home,” Amanda said. “It appeared as though the patient had a dilated cardiomyopathy — which means the heart was not pumping blood adequately.”

As sonographers never diagnose a condition, Amanda asks probing questions to find out if it is a new finding, and to see if the patient is having any symptoms such as shortness of breath or difficulty breathing. In the end, the patient is cleared to go home, but will be followed up immediately with the referring physician and scheduled to meet with cardiology.

3:30 p.m.: Amanda treats her final patient of the day by carrying out another stress echocardiogram.

She then cleans up her lab room, before filing her reports, turning off machines and checking to make sure there are no last-minute requests for tests.

5:30 p.m.: The day is complete and Amanda heads down to her car.

“Every day can be busy — whether we’re jumping in to help colleagues or filling out reports in our spare time,” Amanda said. “But we’re helping people find answers. And that’s something that makes it all so enjoyable.”

Do you want to share your typical day in Headlines? Email headlines@med.umich.edu with a description of your role at Michigan Medicine!

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