Nuclear Medicine Technologists - Career Opportunities by Mike Clark

Nuclear Medicine Technologists handle medical equipment, administer radiopharmaceuticals to patients, and observe the characteristics and functions of the relevant tissues or organs.

They create diagnostic images using cameras that detect and map the radioactive drug in a patient's body, and they explain test procedures to patients. The images are interpreted by a physician.

Technologists keep patient records and operate diagnostic imaging equipment. They also assess the behavior of the radioactive substance inside the body.

In the U.S. there are about 20,000 people working as nuclear medicine technologists. Some 70 percent of the jobs are in hospitals. Other technologists work in offices of physicians or in medical and diagnostic laboratories, including diagnostic imaging centers.

Nuclear medicine technology programs are from 1 to 4 years, leading to a certificate, an associate degree, or a bachelor's degree. Certificate programs are offered in hospitals, associate degree programs in community colleges, and bachelor's degree programs in 4-year colleges and universities. Courses include physical sciences, biological effects of radiation exposure, radiation protection and procedures, the use of radiopharmaceuticals, imaging techniques and computer applications.

One-year certificate programs are for health professionals who already have an associate degree and wish to specialize in nuclear medicine.

Certification or licensure is required by many employers and an increasing number of states. Certification comes from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists and the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board. Nuclear medicine technologists are required to meet the minimum Federal standards on the administration of radioactive drugs and the operation of radiation detection equipment.

The Joint Review Committee on Education Programs in Nuclear Medicine Technology accredits most formal training programs in nuclear medicine technology.

Nuclear Medicine Technologists must be able to:

have much physical stamina as they are on their feet much of the day and may lift or turn disabled patients.
be sensitive to patients' physical and psychological needs.
pay attention to detail, follow instructions, and work as part of a team.
operate complicated equipment that requires mechanical ability and manual dexterity.

Job growth for nuclear medicine technologists is much faster than for all occupations, although the number of openings yearly will be relatively low because the occupation is small. Technologists with training in other diagnostic methods will have the best prospects.

How Much Do Nuclear Medicine Technologists Earn?

As of May 2004, the median annual earnings for nuclear medicine technologists were $56,450. The middle 50 percent earned between $48,720 and $67,460. The lowest earnings were less than $41,800, while the highest 10 percent earned more than $80,300.

A Day in a Nuclear Medicine Technologist's Life:

On a typical day a nuclear medicine technologist will:

administer radiopharmaceuticals to patients
monitor the effect of the drug on the tissues or organs
operate cameras that detect and map the radioactive drug in a patient's body
explain test procedures to patients
prepare a dosage of the radiopharmaceutical and administer it
position patients for the procedure
keep patient records
operate diagnostic imaging equipment
assess the behavior of a radioactive substance inside the body.

I hope this article gives you a good idea of what is involved in the career of a Nuclear Medicine Technologist. Health care is the largest industry in the world. In the U.S. about 14 million people work in the health care field. More new wage and salary jobs are in health care than in any other industry. (Some figures from Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

Mike Clark is the director of Health Care Hiring (an online portal to the health care and medical community). Check out this website to learn more about career and training opportunities, and nationwide employer contact information, in the health care and medical sector.

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