NUCLEAR MEDICINE TECHNOLOGY: The Career and Curriculum Gary R. Eastman CNMT Operations Manager/Program Director Hines VA Hospital Nuclear Medicine Service
WHAT IS NUCLEAR MEDICINE TECHNOLOGY ??
Nuclear Medicine Technology (NMT) is an allied health specialty which utilizes radioactive materials to diagnose and treat disease. The field involves patient care, diagnostic imaging, laboratory analysis of patient samples, and the therapeutic administration of radioisotopes.
NMT practice also involves varying duties pertaining to the operation and management of the clinic or department.
WHAT ARE THE BASIC DUTIES OF A NUCLEAR MEDICINE TECHNOLOGIST ??
Direct responsibility for the care of patients
Prepare and administer radiopharmaceuticals to patients
Perform tasks to assure good radiation safety practices
Record keeping functions to assure regulatory compliance
Office/Clinic operations, Quality Assurance, etc.
Dual Head Gamma Camera
Single Head Gamma Camera
Dual Head - PET Capable
Triple Head Gamma Camera
IS THE JOB HAZARDOUS ??
Although the handling of radioactive and potentially biohazardous materials (Blood) are duties of the NMT, Proper training and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) virtually eliminates hazardous conditions in the working environment.
Radiation exposure is an occupational reality in NMT. Good radiation safety practices keep exposures “ A s L ow A s R easonably A chievable” (ALARA).
WHAT IS THE WORKPLACE ENVIRONMENT FOR A NMT ??
Nuclear Medicine Technologist's work in a wide variety of settings. Most NMT's work in a hospital setting. However, an increasing number of NMT's are working in clinical imaging centers, or in industry.
Many NMT's also work in office settings. Duties may involve such things as administration, education, computer applications and safety.
IS THE CURRICULUM FOR AN NMT DIFFICULT ??
The NMT must have an educational background in a wide range of subjects. Basic and Advanced Science Courses, Mathematics, Computer Science, Psychology, Communication and Business courses are all required or highly recommended.
Specialized Nuclear/Radiation courses form a solid base and promote good radiation safety practices.
The curriculum provides a challenging and highly rewarding educational experience.
COLLEGE COURSES WITH RELATIONSHIP TO NMT PRACTICE
Biology and Anatomy/Physiology
Business and Other Related Courses
WHY DO I NEED TO KNOW ALL THIS STUFF ??
These courses provide a foundation for skills utilized daily by an NMT in Preparation and Quality Control of Radiopharmaceuticals, and in the performance of laboratory and In-Vitro procedures.
The required laboratory portion of chemistry courses provides the student with the necessary experience to insure safe and accurate clinical practices.
BIOLOGY/ANATOMY AND PHYSIOLOGY COURSES:
Anatomy affords the student an understanding and identification of the organ systems of the human body.
Physiology provides essential instruction, as it is the base of nuclear medicine involving the bio-distributions and mechanisms of localization of radiopharmaceuticals
NMT’s must have expertise in radiopharmaceutical and non-radioactive drug interactions on a cellular level as well as on a systems level.
BIOLOGY/ANATOMY AND PHYSIOLOGY
Understanding nuclear medicine instrumentation systems, and quality control is fundamental.
The interactions within the human body of the various types of radiation and their associated energies have a critical effect on medical imaging and therapeutic procedures. This knowledge is crucial for the practicing NMT.
Mathematical calculations, including those pertaining to the statistical nature of Nuclear Medicine imaging are performed on a routine basis in the practice of NMT.
COMPUTER SCIENCE COURSES:
Computer science forms the base of medical imaging. NMT has developed from a basic "artistic" imaging modality to a modality requiring a great deal of knowledge of computer principles and applications.
Computers perform tasks in many facets of NMT practice including; Patient scheduling, Record keeping, Instrumentation operation/Quality Control, Data Manipulation (Processing) and network applications such as PACS.
These courses provide students a foundation for the critical ability to interact with patients in a often challenging clinical setting.
NMT's must understand the unique situations and problems encountered while working in a medical setting with sometimes critically ill patients and concerned family members.
COMMUNICATIONS COURSES (WRITTEN, ORAL):
Good oral communication skills are extremely important not only in patient interactions but also in contacts with physicians, nursing personnel, technologists and other support staff in a medical setting.
Good written communication skills are important in report generation and clinical operations.
BUSINESS AND OTHER RELATED COURSES:
Many nuclear medicine technologist duties have evolved from primarily direct patient imaging to a career involved with the many facets of office/clinic operations.
This requires an understanding and a level of competency in business related courses.
NUCLEAR MEDICINE IMAGES
WHAT IS THE CURRENT JOB MARKET FOR ENTRY LEVEL NMT'S ??
Nuclear Medicine Technologists are currently in great demand nationwide. Numerous career opportunities are available in virtually every area of the country in a variety of workplace settings.
Many of the currently available positions offer excellent starting salaries, full benefits, relocation assistance, student loan assistance, continuing education allowances and sign on bonuses.
WHAT IS THE CURRENT SALARY FOR NMT'S ??
The salary level for entry level NMT's varies considerably from geographical location and level of responsibility. The current average salary for entry level NMT's is $40,000 - $60,000 annually.
Additional income is available for on-call duties or by employment in staffing agencies.