Technologist - Careers in Nuclear Medicine
If you have a keen interest in the health sciences and computer technology and are looking for a people-oriented career, consider Nuclear Medicine Technology!
Nuclear medicine combines chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer technology, and medicine in using radioactivity to diagnose and treat disease. Though there are many diagnostic techniques currently available, nuclear medicine uniquely provides information about both the structure and function of virtually every major organ system within the body. It is this ability to characterize and quantify physiologic function which separates nuclear medicine from other imaging modalities, such as x-ray. Nuclear medicine procedures are safe, they involve little or no patient discomfort and do not require the use of anesthesia.
The Technologist's Role
The Nuclear Medicine Technologist is a highly specialized healthcare professional who works closely with the nuclear medicine physician. Some of the technologist's primary responsibilities are to:
- Prepare and administer radioactive chemical compounds, known as radiopharmaceuticals
- Perform patient imaging procedures using sophisticated radiation-detecting instrumentation
- Accomplish computer processing and image enhancement
- Analyze biologic specimens in the laboratory
- Provide images, data analysis, and patient information to the physician for diagnostic interpretation.
During an imaging procedure, the technologist works directly with the patient. The technologist:
- Gains the patient's confidence by obtaining pertinent history, describing the procedure and answering any questions
- Monitors the patient's physical condition during the course of the procedure
- Notes any specific patient comments which might indicate the need for additional images or might be useful to the physician in interpreting the results of the procedure.
An Exciting Future!
Nuclear medicine will continue to be a field at the forefront of modern clinical medicine and technological development. The future has never been brighter thanks to:
- The development of new radiopharmaceuticals for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes
- Promising research and development of cancer-detecting and cancer-killing agents, such as genetically engineered antibodies
- The expanding clinical use of exciting new technology know as Positron Emission Tomography (PET), which provides new and unique means of studying biochemistry and metabolism within living tissues.
A Variety of Opportunities
Nuclear Medicine Technologists work in a wide variety of clinical settings, such as
- Community hospitals
- University-affiliated teaching hospitals and medical centers
- Outpatient imaging facilities
- Public health institutions
- Government and private research institutes.
Salaries in nuclear medicine are very good. Salaries tend to vary with geographic regions and cost of living. For entry-level salary information for your region, contact a Nuclear Medicine Technology training program in your area.
Technologists have a wide variety of alternative career paths available, including:
- Senior staff technologist
- Research technologist
- Technology program educator
- Chief technologist
- Team leader, lead or supervisor
- Hospital administrator
- Industry sales representative, technical specialist, or research-and-development specialist.
More than 100 accredited Nuclear Medicine Technology programs currently offer instruction and clinical internship.
General prerequisites depend on the type of program offered, but typically include a background in science and mathematics and an interest in working with patients. Programs available include:
- Post-bachalaureate one-year certificate programs
- Two-year associate degree
- Four-year bachelor's degree
For information about or a complete list of Nuclear Medicine Technology programs, contact:
Joint Review Committee on Educational Programs in Nuclear Medicine Technology
2000 W. Danforth Road
Suite 130, #203
Edmond, OK 73003
Or contact your guidance counselor or local library for The Allied Health Education Directory (ISBN 0-88970-186-8)
Upon successful completion of a nuclear medicine program, qualified technologists can be certified through examination by one of the national certifying agencies. Many employers and an increasing number of states now require certification or licensure.
Want More Information?
Call your local hospital and ask for the Nuclear Medicine Department. Speak directly with a Nuclear Medicine Technologist and arrange for a visit.
For additional information about the profession, write or call
The Society of Nuclear Medicine
1850 Samuel Morse Drive
Reston, Va 20190-5316