Nuclear Medicine is a branch of medical diagnostic imaging that involves the use of radioisotopes to visualize, diagnose, and treat medical conditions.
The nuclear medicine technologist is the trained health care professional responsible for the administration of radioisotopes and operation of the nuclear medicine camera. The technologist usually works under the direction of a radiologist, who is a physician specializing in the interpretation of medical diagnostic images.
The successful technologist will be well versed in a number of skills required to produce quality nuclear medicine scans. Among them are; safe and thorough knowledge in the operation of the gamma camera and related equipment; administration and monitoring of radionuclides; quality control of the nuclear medicine lab and equipment; and radiation safety. The technologist will also be responsible for related paperwork and the monitoring of patients undergoing examinations. Good communication skills are a must as are the ability to recognize and respond to both medical and radiation related emergencies.
The training period for a nuclear medicine tech is usually two to four years, and leads to either an associates or bachelors degree. One year certificate programs are available for individuals who already possess training in a related diagnostic imaging field, such as x-ray or ultrasonography.
Most states will require a licensure or certification in order to work as a nuclear medicine technologist. Certification is available through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists and the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board. Different states may also have individual licensure requirements. The licensed / certified technologist must also be prepared to show evidence of continuing education in order to maintain their credentials.
Hospitals, private imaging centers, and larger cardiology practices are generally the major employers of nuclear medicine technologists. In terms of advancement, the technologist may be promoted to supervisor and on to chief technologist. The job outlook for nuclear medicine technologists is expected to remain strong for a number of years due to advances in the technology and increased diagnostic imaging needs of an older population.