Nuclear medicine uses radioactive isotopes for medical imaging to treat or diagnose disease. Those who complete nuclear medicine programs are eligible to become nuclear medicine technologists.
Programs generally include hands-on clinical experiences under the supervision of a certified nuclear medicine technologist. Nuclear medicine programs prepare students for careers in various medical settings including hospitals, clinics, and imaging centers. Some programs award certifications that can satisfy state licensure requirements.
Some common concepts taught in nuclear medicine courses include:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Medical terminology
- Nuclear medicine procedures
List of Courses
Introduction to Nuclear Medicine
An introductory course in nuclear medicine is usually the first course students take in a nuclear medicine program. Subjects covered include radioactive decay, instruments used in nuclear medicine, radiation types, and ways to protect oneself and others from radiation. Nuclear medicine uses biology and physics, and this course covers basic concepts in physical, chemical, and mathematical equations of radioactive decay. Students learn how to calculate radiation exposure and decay to analyze test results.
Human Anatomy and Physiology
Students in this course learn about the human body, including its components and their functions. A variety of organ systems are discussed, including the circulatory, skeletal, immune and central nervous systems. Specific organ structures and chemical make-ups that relate to nuclear medicine imaging are covered. Many times, students in a human anatomy and physiology course have clinical exposure to human cadavers in order to study anatomical (physical) make-up of human bodies.
Radiopharmaceuticals, which are studied throughout a radiopharmacy course, are radioactive drugs made up of an isotope and carrier molecule that can be safely put in the body. The role of the carrier molecule is to deliver the radioactive isotope to the area of the body that needs diagnosing or analysis. Students in a radiopharmacy course learn about radiopharmaceutical quality control. Students learn the characteristics of radiopharmaceuticals, how they are used in clinical settings and how to determine the correct dosage amounts.
Nuclear Medicine Instruments
The main instrument used in nuclear medicine is the gamma camera. The gamma camera is used to track or view radioisotopes that are emitting gamma rays inside the body. Students learn the history of nuclear medicine instruments and how instruments have changed. Other subjects include troubleshooting instruments, online correction systems, modifications that may need to be made to instruments or body position, and collimators (narrow tubes that guide radiation paths).
Nuclear medicine programs usually include a series of clinical requirements at the completion of the program. A clinical education course may be broken down into various levels or subject areas. These courses are designed to give students hands-on experience in a health care setting. Portions of this course may include working with a current nuclear medicine technologist or other health care professional in order to practice with professional guidance. Students typically choose a specialty area and spend most of the clinical course in that department. Specific areas of study may include pediatrics, oncology, gerontology or cardiology.