Nuclear Medicine Technologist Career Guide

Overview

A nuclear medicine technologist uses various radioactive substances to help physicians diagnose diseases and illnesses for treatment purposes. Nuclear medicine as a whole has evolved over the past several years as specialists find new ways to administer radio-pharmaceuticals to detect abnormalities in the function or characteristics of a patient’s body, and to treat those issues quickly and effectively. If new and constantly evolving technology interests you, a career in this field might be just right for you.

Job Duties

Needless to say, diagnosing and treating patients is not always an easy, straightforward task. Nuclear medicine technologists seek to make this work somewhat easier and much more precise by using imaging procedures such as scanners to visualize different parts of the human body. Before a treatment, technologists must carefully and correctly explain the imaging procedure to patients. This involves informing them of any potential risks related to radiation exposure and any safety precautions which should be taken to protect them. After checking that the machines used are in safe and proper working condition, they take images of the required areas. If drugs were administered before or during treatment, they must also monitor the patient’s vital signs and any changes that might occur. Once the procedure is finished, the technologist delivers the requested scans to the patient’s physician, who will then interpret the images to diagnose an issue and/or determine a proper treatment plan. After diagnosis, the patient will then be given radioactive drugs to address their medical concern. As a result of all this, technologists must maintain accurate patient records to prevent complications and to help the physician quickly and efficiently make note of the patient’s history.

Job Outlook

These professionals work in medical and surgical hospitals, physicians’ offices, laboratories, and outpatient care centers. According to a 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics report,about 21,200 people were estimated to be employed as nuclear medicine technologists in the United States. Because radiopharmaceuticals are being used more frequently, employment opportunities for technologists are expected to increase over the next several years.

Salary

The Bureau of Labor Statistics found in a May 2011 study that nuclear medicine technologists earn an average annual salary of $69,960.

Education Requirements

At a minimum, one needs an associate degree to enter this field. More opportunities open up with the completion of a bachelor degree. Typical coursework includes chemistry, physics, radiology, radioactive pharmacology, and physiology. Students can also choose to get a degree in a related field like radiologic technology or nursing. Whichever specific program is chosen, a student must complete hours in clinical practice under the supervision of a certified technologist. Graduates must also pass a certification test to practice in a professional capacity. However, license requirements vary from state to state, so always be sure to contact your state health board to find out exactly what applies in the state in which you intend to practice.

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