Musculoskeletal-Sonographer Examination

In January of 2015, the American Registry for Diagnostic Medical Sonography® (ARDMS®) committed to review the RMSK® certification and determine how ARDMS can respond to the growing and diverse field of MSK imaging. ARDMS announced today the launch of the Registered Musculoskeletal Sonographer™ (RMSKS™) credential. A separate musculoskeletal-sonographer examination written by and for sonographers, the RMSKS™ credential is part of a larger initiative to expand and customize the MSK ultrasound assessments within the medical community. Click here to read the full announcement.

Over the last five months, ARDMS collected over 900 responses from the RMSKS™ Job Task Analysis (JTA) Survey. The findings from this research coupled with meetings and feedback with related health and medical associations prompted the development of the dedicated sonographer MSK certification. Based on the research, we’ve determined the most immediate need is to introduce a separate, musculoskeletal sonographer-specific credential (RMSKS™). Sonographers who met the requirements and passed the musculoskeletal sonography examination will be assigned the RMSKS™ credential on July 22, 2015.

As the organization continues to research and evaluate MSK imaging, there may be a need for specialized exams for advanced care providers such as nurse practitioners, physician assistants, physical therapists and others with an expanded scope of MSK imaging. For the time being, advanced-care providers that have earned the RMSK credential will retain the RMSK® certification.

 How does the introduction of the new RMSKS™ credentialing examination impact the sonographers, physicians and advanced care providers that currently hold the RMSK® certification?

All sonographers, radiologic technologists and athletic trainers who met the requirements and passed the MSK examination will be assigned the RMSKS™ credential on July 22, 2015.

All physicians who met the requirements and passed the MSK examination will retain the credential with no change.

For the time being, advanced-care providers such as nurse practitioners, physician assistants and physical therapists will retain the RMSK® certification. Musculoskeletal imaging is an emerging field for ARDMS and we are continuing to learn more about it.

 Will the sonographers that hold the RMSK® credential need to take the SPI examination?

Sonographer Registrants that currently hold the RMSK® credential will not be required to take the Sonography Principles & Instrumentation (SPI) examination when they are reassigned the RMSKS ™ credential. Should sonographers pursue additional credentials that require the SPI examination, they will need to take and pass the SPI examination and the corresponding specialty.

Sonographer applicants who have not passed the MSK examination will be required to take and pass the MSKS examination and the SPI examination.

 How is the RMSKS™ credentialing examination different than the RMSK®?

Rest assured that the original examination validated the skills and knowledge to practice musculoskeletal imaging, across medical specialties. But it also incorrectly tested items that were outside of a sonographer’s scope of practice. We've fixed that error. The new MSKS examination we are developing is built by and for sonographers.

 How is ARDMS engaging the Registrant community to contribute to the development of this and future credentials?

Please log on to the Volunteer Now section of the ARDMS site to contribute as an item writer. We value your perspective and welcome comments to drive and shape the future of musculoskeletal certification.

 What were the findings of the RMSKS™ Job Task Analysis Survey?

ARDMS sent the RMSKS™ job task analysis survey to 207 RMSK® sonographer Registrants and 2,946 randomly selected Registrants. The survey was made available to participants for two weeks between January 20 and February 3, 2015. The participants responded anonymously and all responses were kept confidential. A total of 938 sonographers responded to the survey. Of these, 374 (39.9%) reported that they currently perform and/or teach musculoskeletal sonography, and the data analysis was based on those musculoskeletal sonographers.

 Will ARDMS create custom musculoskeletal examinations for each subspecialty? Which one will be next?

ARDMS is actively exploring that now. We are meeting with professional associations represented in advanced care and partnering with them. We are experts in sonography, but these emerging fields for musculoskeletal are new to us. We need to work alongside them.  As soon as we know more we’ll be transparent with you.

 What does the term advanced care provider mean?

The emerging field of musculoskeletal imaging is new to us and we are partnering with others to learn more beyond our traditional physician and sonography community. What we do know is this. The following medical professionals, whom we call advanced care providers, are using musculoskeletal imaging now: Nurse Practitioners, Physician Assistants and Physical Therapists.

 ‭(Hidden)‬ How does the introduction of the new RMSK sonography credential impact the sonographers that currently hold the RMSK credential?

​​The decision to split the credential, right now, does not have an immediate impact on your practice or place of work.  We know there are more questions than we have answers to right now. Please know that we are working diligently to create a credential that better reflects a sonographer’s scope of practice. Come Spring, when we announce the new credential, we will fully communicate all of the details and what it means for you and your business. You won't be left in the dark.​

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Will the sonographers that hold the RMSK credential need to retake an exam? What will the new sonography credential look like? Will the prerequisites change?

No. Current RMSK Registrants will not be required to retake the new musculoskeletal sonography examination. We are looking at ways to reassign the credential.

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Wasn’t the Job Task Analysis used the first time the RMSK credential was created? Why wasn’t the Scope of Practice issue discovered then?

​The JTA was conducted previously, but with the directive that the RMSK credential would be targeted to physicians. Deciding to open the credential to other medical professionals was a decision that was made after the fact, and it was a misstep on our part.

 ‭(Hidden)‬ Will RMSK Registrants that are sonographers receive a refund?

​We won’t know that until ARDMS determines the prerequisites for the new musculoskeletal sonographer credential.​

 ‭(Hidden)‬ How does the RMSK split impact the current RMSK credential for physicians?

ARDMS made the decision to introduce the RMSK™ credential that embodied a growth opportunity for musculoskeletal ultrasound. The ARDMS mission was to make the examination rigorous and the credential the standard for physicians practicing musculoskeletal ultrasound, and that remains true. ​

 ‭(Hidden)‬ When will we know more information on the RMSK credential for sonographers?

​We anticipate a Spring 2015 announcement of the new sonographer musculoskeletal credential.

 ‭(Hidden)‬ What is ARDMS doing to ensure this doesn’t happen again?

ARDMS will continue to be the organization that recognizes and responds to trends, challenges and areas of growth for sonography. We also are constantly reviewing all of our credentials to ensure they are relevant and meet the needs of the sonography specialty.

The cornerstone of the work we do is identifying the need for credentials and then developing the corresponding exams to test the skills for each subspecialty in sonography. 

Our responsibility is to anticipate and discover tomorrow's need. We're continuing to uncover new ways ultrasound and medicine are connected. Musculoskeletal ultrasound is just one example of the evolution of the profession.


For additional questions or concerns, please contact the Registrant Services department by e-mail or call 1-800-541-9754 or 301-738-8401, Monday through Friday, 9:00am to 4:00pm EST.