Nuclear medical technicians or technologists work in hospitals and medical facilities working with patients to administer radiation tests and procedures. They require an associate's degree, and usually must obtain state licenses or professional certification.
Nuclear medical technicians or technologists are qualified to operate diagnostic imaging equipment in order to help diagnose and treat diseases. They prepare and administer purified unstable atoms to patients. These radiopharmaceuticals emit radiation, which indicates the presence of disease, based on metabolic changes in the patient's body. Nuclear medical technicians must earn a minimum of an associate's degree to enter the field and may enhance their employment opportunities by training in several diagnostic methods.
|Required Education||Associate's degree|
|Additional Requirements||License and/or professional certification required in many states|
|Projected Job Growth* (2018-2028)||7%|
|Median Salary* (2018)||$76,820 annually|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Job Description for Nuclear Medical Technicians
Although they generally work a 40-hour week, depending on the medical practice, nuclear medicine technicians or technologists might have to participate in an on-call rotation. Working in hospitals, offices of physicians or diagnostic imaging centers and laboratories, the job can be physically demanding. Practitioners are on their feet a great deal of the time and may be required to position and re-position patients, in order to facilitate the proper operation of imaging equipment. Operation of the equipment itself calls for a certain amount of manual dexterity and some mechanical ability.
The job of nuclear medical technician entails more than the competent operation of position emission tomography (PET) diagnostic equipment. An important facet of the job is the ability to establish and continue effective communication with the patient and the patient's family. Sensitivity to each individual's physical and psychological needs has a great deal to do with keeping the patient at ease during what can be a disorienting and stressful procedure.
Upon completion of an educational program covering topics that include the physical sciences, effects of radiation exposure, radiation procedures, radiopharmaceuticals, computer applications and imaging techniques an individual may earn a 2-year associate's degree or a 4-year bachelor's degree. One-year certificates in nuclear medicine are available to registered nurses and individuals who already have an associate's degree in areas such as radiologic technology or diagnostic medical sonography and wish to specialize.
Although educational requirements vary by state, most require professional certification or licensure to practice. Most often, certification is earned by completing a training program and comprehensive examination recognized by the American Association of Radiologic Technologists (AART) or the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB).
Following an explanation of the procedure about to be performed on him or her, nuclear medical technicians administer radionuclides to the patient either orally, by injection or inhalation. These radionuclides or isotopes have been purified to form what are known as radiopharmaceuticals.
While working with radioactive material, nuclear medicine technologists are responsible for safety precautions, as they see to it that patients and workers are only exposed to the necessary amount of radiation.
Placing the patient in the appropriate position, the technician operates the scanner, or gamma scintillation camera. This creates images that map the localization of the radiopharmaceuticals in the patient's body and transmits them to a computer. In addition to recording the amount and type of radiopharmaceuticals used, the technician monitors the camera's operation.
It's the duty of all nuclear medicine technicians and technologists to keep abreast of the frequent advances, innovations and developments in the field. For this reason, recertification hinges on the yearly completion of a certain number of continuing education hours, which must be registered with the AART and the NMTCB.
Employment Outlook and Salary Statistics
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that employment for nuclear medical technicians or technologists would increase by 7% between 2018 and 2028. Training in multiple diagnostic methods not only enhances an individual's chances for advancement, but increases the possibility of a higher salary. According to the BLS, the median annual wage in 2018 was $76,820.
Nuclear medical technicians require an associate's degree, though bachelor's degree programs are also available. The job growth outlook for this career is faster than the job market as a whole and the median annual income is about $76,820 based on 2018 data.