Nuclear Medicine Physician Vs. Clinician

May 30, 2020

Comparing Nuclear Medicine Physicians to Clinicians

Nuclear medicine physicians and clinicians are both pivotal in maintaining the health of individuals. Though the former is more specialized in the treatments they offer, the latter is also able to diagnose and treat illnesses.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2019)* Job Growth (2018-2028)*
Nuclear Medicine Physicians Doctoral Degree $208,000 or more (Physicians and Surgeons) 7% (Physicians and Surgeons)
Clinicians Doctoral Degree $201,100 (Family and general practitioners) 10% (Family and general practitioners)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Nuclear Medicine Physicians vs. Clinicians

Both careers explored here require the medical professional to meet with and diagnose patients. Nuclear medicine physicians, however, have a deep understanding of radioactive materials that can be used to diagnose and heal patients. While clinicians may also be aware of the available treatments using radiopharmaceuticals, they typically only refer patients to a specialist who can administer them, such as nuclear medicine physicians. Clinicians may have a broad range of services and treatments that they administer to patients.

Nuclear Medicine Physicians

Nuclear medicine physicians specialize in working with radioactive elements to diagnose diseases in the lungs and other organs, as well as treating cancer and tumors. After meeting with a patient and gaining an understanding of their medical history, these doctors then use magnetic resonance imaging and other tests to see the patient's organs. This includes the use of radioactive tracer materials that the doctor injects. Using the images, nuclear medicine physicians can see and interpret any anomalies that point to health concerns, such as brain damage or enlarged hearts. When working with patients who have been diagnosed with cancer, these doctors explain the risks of any radiation treatments before administering them.

Job responsibilities of a nuclear medicine physician include:

  • Studying diagnostic images to ensure they are clear enough for analysis
  • Writing reports for clinical studies that outline treatments and the progress of a patient's health
  • Ensuring radiology technicians are trained in how to safely administer x-ray tests
  • Prescribing radiopharmaceuticals for ongoing, oral treatments


Clinicians are doctors who typically see the same patients on a regular basis. This allows them to build a relationship of trust and care, as well as to remain updated on a patient's health. In a private office or hospital, they can treat colds, the flu, or even broken bones and lesions. When meeting with a patient, clinicians take detailed notes on the vitals, symptoms, and overall health of the patient. These are added to a patient's chart, which outlines their entire medical history. Additionally, these medical professionals prevent illnesses by discussing proper diet, exercise, and hygiene with patients, as well as administering vaccines to fend off polio and other diseases.

Job responsibilities of a clinician include:

  • Using medical equipment, including syringes, blood pressure cuffs, and pap smear testing tools
  • Providing prenatal care to pregnant women and ensuring they are healthy enough to give birth
  • Ordering x-rays, blood work, and other diagnostic tests
  • Encouraging follow-up appointments, especially for patients undergoing a new medicine regiment or other treatments

Related Careers

If you are interested in a career as a nuclear medicine physician, you could also research a job as a nuclear scientist, because both work with the properties of radioactive materials. Of course, if a career as a clinician sounds fulfilling to you, you could look into a position as a physician's assistant, since both focus on maintaining the general health of individuals.

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