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
• 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
• NMT practice also involves varying duties pertaining
to the operation and management of the clinic or
WHAT ARE THE BASIC DUTIES
OF A NUCLEAR MEDICINE
• Direct responsibility for the care of patients
• Prepare and administer radiopharmaceuticals to patients
• Operate Nuclear and PET imaging equipment
• Computer analysis of acquired data
• Perform laboratory functions utilizing radioactive materials
• Perform tasks to assure good radiation safety practices
• Record keeping functions to assure regulatory compliance
• Office/Clinic operations, Quality Assurance, etc.
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 “As Low
As Reasonably Achievable” (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
• Computer Science
• Business and Other Related Courses
• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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
• Good written communication skills are important
in report generation and clinical operations.
BUSINESS AND OTHER RELATED
• Many nuclear medicine technologist duties have
evolved from primarily direct patient imaging to a
career involved with the many facets of
• This requires an understanding and a level of
competency in business related courses.
• Patient Education
• Quality Assurance
• Report Generation
• Record Keeping
• Regulatory Compliance
• Procedure Development
WHAT IS THE CURRENT JOB
MARKET FOR ENTRY LEVEL
• 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.