What is a Nuclear Medicine Technologist?
A Nuclear Medicine Technologist is responsible for patient education and preparation regarding the procedures, the administration of radiopharmaceuticals, and performing complex computer processing. Radiation safety for both the patient and the facility staff is another important responsibility of a Nuclear Medicine Technologist. Most work in hospitals, physicians' offices, or in diagnostic imaging centers.
Nuclear Medicine Technologists have many opportunities for career advancement and professional growth. A technologist may advance to a supervisory role as chief technologist or department administrator. Many technologists specialize in clinical areas such as Nuclear Cardiology or P.E.T, PET/CT imaging. Some leave acute patient care for challenging positions in research laboratories, while others become instructors of medical related subjects or for Nuclear Medicine Technology programs. Other technologists leave the clinical site to work as sales or training representatives for medical equipment or pharmaceutical firms.
Another option would be to work in radiation protection. Both the Federal and State governments and private industries employ technologists for radiation control and radiation monitoring. Those in the field of Nuclear Medicine Technology have many more opportunities than those in most professions!
Employment of Nuclear Medicine Technologists is expected to grow faster than average for all occupations through 2012. Growth will arise from an increase in the number of middle-age and older persons who are the primary users of diagnostic procedures including nuclear medicine tests. However, the number of openings each year will be relatively low because the occupation is small. Technologists who are also trained in other diagnostic methods, such as radiologic technology or diagnostic medical sonography, will have the best prospects.
Technological innovations may increase the diagnostic uses of nuclear medicine. One example is the use of radiopharmaceuticals in combination with monoclonal antibodies to detect cancer at far earlier stages than is customary today and without resorting to surgery. Another example is the use of radionuclides to examine the heart's ability to pump blood. Wider use of nuclear medical imaging to observce metabolic and biochemical changes for neurology, cardiology, and oncology procedures also will spur demand for Nuclear Medicine Technologists.
Cost considerations will affect the speed with which new applications of nuclear medicine grow. Some promising nuclear medicine procedures, such as positron emission tomography, are extremely costly, and hospitals contemplating these procedures will have to consider equipment costs, reimbursement policies, and the number of potential users.