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Nuclear Medicine Physician Vs. Medical Doctor

Physicians and medical doctors must complete medical school and then pass certification exams. However, there are differences based on specialty area. Below the specialty area of nuclear medicine is compared with medical doctors.

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Comparing Nuclear Medicine Physician to Medical Doctor

Medical professionals work with patients to diagnose and cure diseases or maintain their health if they are not currently sick. A physician may specialize in nuclear medicine which uses radioactive materials as a diagnostic or therapeutic tool. Medical doctors have long term relationships with their patients, and often know them from birth. To work in either profession, a medical degree is required, but nuclear medicine physicians must complete additional training and certification.

Job Title Minimum Education Required Median Salary (2017)** Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Nuclear Medicine Physician Medical degree $316,457 13% (physicians and surgeons, all other)
Medical Doctor Medical degree $196,254 (general physician) 16% (family and general practitioners)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Salary.com

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Responsibilities of a Nuclear Medicine Physician vs. a Medical Doctor

Medical doctors are physicians. All physicians complete a bachelor's degree before admission to medical school. After graduating from medical school doctors spend time in internship and residency programs that provide additional training for the specific area of medicine they intend to practice. A nuclear medicine physician usually spends four years in training while a medical doctor may only spend three years in residency. Aside from the differences in medical training, nuclear medicine physicians usually work in a hospital lab while a medical doctor may have their own office and only occasionally visit patients in the hospital. A medical doctor may refer patients to a nuclear medicine physician for tests that require the use of radioactive materials.

Nuclear Medicine Physician

Doctors who specialize in nuclear medicine are trained to safely use radioactive materials to produce images of internal organs and administer doses to patients undergoing chemotherapy. They are licensed to evaluate and interpret the images produced with radioactive tracers and develop therapies to cure a variety of diseases. In some cases the use of radionuclides is conducted in a research setting where new therapies are being tested. In other cases, the nuclear medicine physician treats patients with cardiac problems or those with cancer. Regardless of the setting, this doctor must evaluate the needs of the patient and develop a plan that meets those needs by using radioactive materials. Therefore, not all patients are appropriate to be treated by these specialists.

Job responsibilities of a nuclear medicine physician include:

  • Ensuring that all patients and staff are protected from radiation
  • Supervising technologists who operate imaging machinery
  • Providing disposal procedures to adhere with state and federal regulations
  • Maintaining quality control in the preparation of medications
  • Documenting any spills and decontamination procedures

Medical Doctor

Medical doctors, also known as family doctors or general practitioners, are the type of doctor most people commonly associate with the profession. During their residency, they work in a variety of environments and get rotations in delivery rooms, emergency rooms, children's hospitals, and ICU wards in addition to being on-call. Once licensed, They can examine patients and prescribe medication or refer the patient to a specialist. Many medical doctors work on preventive medicine which is facilitated by seeing the same patients throughout their entire life. These doctors are on the front line of healthcare and often advise patients on a variety of issues from nutrition and exercise to medical procedures and end of life options.

Job responsibilities of a medical doctor include:

  • Updating patient history charts and filing data for government reports
  • Administering vaccinations
  • Working with nurses, social workers and therapists to optimize patient health
  • Delivering babies and performing surgeries
  • Monitoring vital signs and the composition of blood components

Related Careers

There are many different medical fields, but if you are interested primarily in radioactivity like a nuclear medicine physician, then perhaps you would enjoy becoming a nuclear engineer. A chiropractic physician must also complete medical training after getting a bachelor's degree similar to a medical doctor, but it is focused only on the skeleton, muscles and nervous system.

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