Nuclear medicine technologists combine a wealth of computer and medicinal skills to treat patients through image scanning and administration of radioactive drugs to aid in the treatment of different diseases. They offer alternative diagnostic and treatment options, especially for conditions that are hard to manage with conventional medicine.
What do Nuclear Medicine Technologists Do?
- Administer of radionuclides to patients orally, by injection or by inhalation and trace their movement in a patient’s body
- Uphold safety to ensure you do not expose your patients and colleagues to more radiation than is necessary
- Positioning and repositioning patients and equipment during the procedure
- Operate and ensure the smooth running of the gamma scintillation cameras or scanners
- Prepare equipment before a procedure and clean up after a patient
- Keep records of each patient’s radiation dosage
- Produce an x-ray for doctors on request
- Explain procedures to patients and their families and assist them during the procedure
- Issue technical reports on a patients progress
The following qualifications prepare you to pursue a career in nuclear medicine technology:
- A two year associate’s degree or a four year bachelor’s degree covering units in physical science, radiation procedures, effects of radiation exposure, computer application and imaging techniques
- A one-year post-baccalaureate certificate program for individuals already working in the medical field, for example, nurses
- Licenses from the American Registry of Radiological Technologists and the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board
The following skills apply when working as a nuclear technologist:
- Sensitivity to each patients physical and psychological needs
- Interpersonal skills especially when dealing with patients and their families
- Ability to provide emergency care
- Ability to work independently and as part of a team
- The mental and physical capacity to function optimally under pressure
- Pay attention to detail
- Critical and analytical skills
Your work as a nuclear medicine technologist will have you working long hours in the radiation room. You will interact with patients, doctors, nurses, technicians and other hospital staff on a daily basis. Although most of radiation procedures are pre-planned, you might be called in to assist a doctor with an x-ray or administration of medication. Your work involves handling of equipment, which is physically tasking. You will also spend a lot of time on your feet.
Your work environment continuously exposes you to radiation, which can affect your health after a prolonged period. Ensure you always wear protective gear and that you keep away from radiation unless you are treating a patient.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a twenty percent growth for careers in nuclear medicine technology between 2012 and 2022.
In case you opt for a career in nuclear medicine technology, you have different exciting career paths you can choose to pursue. Some of them include: chief technologist, senior staff technologist, hospital administrator, research technologist, sales representative, technology program educator or technical specialist.
The growth in middle-aged and older populations is likely to open up more opportunities for nuclear medicine technologists as demand for diagnostic procedures and nuclear treatment increases.