Nuclear Medicine Career Video: Becoming a Nuclear Medicine Technologist
Nuclear Medicine Career Video: Becoming a Nuclear Medicine Technologist Transcript
Are you looking for a career that allows you to work with cutting edge biomedical technologies? Nuclear medicine technologists use trace amounts of radioactive materials to test the function of organs and diagnose diseases. A nuclear technician is required to be certified and licensed. Associate's and bachelor's degrees, as well as some professional certificate programs can prepare students for licensing examinations.
In nuclear medicine, isotopes of radioactive elements are introduced into a patient's body to diagnose a variety of disorders and diseases. Nuclear medicine is used in P.E.T. scans, to find tumors, test heart function and provide a visualization of blood flow in the body. Nuclear medicine technicians explain procedures, prepare and provide radiopharmaceuticals to patients and prepare results for physicians to review and interpret.
Job Duties and Skills
Nuclear medicine technologists perform nuclear imaging scans and tests ordered by radiologists and other physicians. After a test is ordered, the technologist prepares the radioactive drugs in the proper ratio for the desired test. This requires careful measurements and a dedication to safety, as radioactive material can be very dangerous.
After the procedure begins, the technologist monitors the imaging equipment, ensuring that the test is proceeding as planned. This involves careful use and control of advanced computer technology. As testing is completed, the technologist prepares the results, either by creating a printed or electronic image or a report that can be viewed and interpreted by the physician.
In addition to these duties, the main responsibility of a nuclear medicine technologist is to limit their own exposure to harmful radiation. While each test only uses a small amount of radioactive material, the cumulative effects of years of work may have negative health effects. Use of lead shielding and other safety measures help technologists to minimize the danger to themselves.
More than 25 states require certification and licensing of nuclear medicine technologists. Licensing requirements often include obtaining certification from either the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) or the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB). Other requirements include completion of an accredited educational program and completion of a written examination.
There are more than 100 accredited Nuclear Medicine Technology educational programs in the United States. These programs take anywhere from one to four years to complete and are offered by vocational schools, community colleges and four year universities. Depending on the institution, graduates may receive a professional certificate, an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree.
Students who enroll in these programs typically study human anatomy and physiology, immunology, clinical nuclear medicine and biochemistry. Advanced programs may also include coursework in nuclear physics, radiation biology and radiopharmacology. Many programs also offer students the opportunity to study the technologies they will eventually use in the workplace. Courses in CPR and general first aid are also common.
Most nuclear medicine technologists work in a clinical setting, commonly in the radiology department of a hospital or clinic. Technologists in these positions may be able to advance to managerial or administrative positions with experience.
Completion of a bachelor's or master's degree may offer additional opportunities in nuclear medicine education. Other opportunities exist in sales and marketing of radiologic pharmaceuticals and technologies. These positions may require additional training in business, but a background in nuclear medicine is essential. Many government agencies employ nuclear medicine technologists in quality control and regulation capacities. These professionals ensure that hospitals and clinics adhere to all safety and usage guidelines.