Candidates interested in working with nuclear medicine and having a part in diagnosing and treating diseases often ask what the typical day is like for a nuclear medicine technologist. Nuclear medicine technologists study how the body functions to enable them to diagnose and treat various diseases and conditions. With a combination of imaging, computer technology, physics, chemistry, math and medicine, nuclear medicine technologists are able to assist physicians in not just diagnosing but also treating patients.
What Nuclear Medicine Technologists Do?
Nuclear medicine technologists are highly trained medical professionals who study body functions to aid them in the diagnosis and treatment of various diseases and conditions. They prepare and administer medications, such as radioactive substances needed to assist in treating patients. They may perform the following duties throughout a typical day.
- Provide patient information, data analysis and images for therapeutic procedures or diagnostic purposes
- Monitor the patient’s condition during treatment
- Administer medications and radiopharmaceuticals
- Evaluate images and new protocols
- Calibrate instrumentation
- Process data and enhance digital images
How to Become One
Nuclear medicine technologists usually have an associate’s degree from an accredited training program on nuclear medicine technology. Some may have a bachelor’s degree or a post-baccalaureate certificate, but the associate’s degree is the most common path for this career. Students complete courses in physics, human anatomy and physiology, radioactive drugs, chemistry and computer science.
Upon completion of the coursework, students complete a clinical internship working under the supervision of a certified nuclear medicine technologist. Most approved nuclear medicine programs are accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Educational Programs in Nuclear Medicine Technology.
Most nuclear medicine technologists are licensed, although licensure requirements vary from state to state. Although certification may be voluntary, most technologists obtain certification. To obtain certification, a candidate must complete the nuclear medicine technology program and pass a certification exam. The candidate must also have successfully completed the clinical education portion of the training. The Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board and the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists both offer certification.
Some nuclear medicine technologists also choose to obtain certifications in specialized areas of nuclear medicine. These might include:
- Computed tomography
- Positron emission tomography
- Nuclear cardiology
Earning additional certifications can enhance the individual’s resume and broaden his or her career opportunities. Effective in 2015, nuclear medicine technologists must have at least an associate’s degree to be eligible for certification through the ARRT.
With the aging population living longer and requiring good healthcare, nuclear medicine technologists will continue to be in demand to provide care to these patients. The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that a job growth of 7% during the decade of 2018-2028. Nuclear medicine technologist wages ranged from $55,330 to $104,730 annually. The average annual wage is $78,870 according to a May 2018 BLS report. The states where nuclear medicine technologists earn the highest wages are California, District of Columbia, Washington, New Jersey and Hawaii.
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With the various work settings like surgical hospitals, outpatient clinics, physicians’ offices and laboratories, the work the nuclear medical technologists is exciting and often-changing from day to day. Regardless of what the nuclear medicine technologist does or where he or she works, his or her typical day involves helping others to feel better.