Nuclear Medical Technologist Job Description
Nuclear medical technologists work with scanners that take images of various areas of patient’s bodies, looking for abnormalities that stand out. These images, in turn, help physicians make accurate diagnoses for their patients. Nuclear medical technologist also administer radioactive drugs to their patients – it’s these drugs that allow the scanners to detect any abnormal areas of the body.
Work Environment for Nuclear Medical Technologists
Nuclear medical technologists primary work in hospitals, although some work in physician’s offices of in clinics that specialize in imaging technology. They work directly with patients to prepare for and go through exams. Part of the preparation involves preparing and giving the patient radioactive drugs – also known as radiopharmaceuticals — that are necessary for the scanner technology to work properly and create images from inside the patient’s body.
While the duties of a nuclear medical technologist can vary, their job often entails such work as:
• Working with patients to help them understand how nuclear medical technology works and a step=by-step explanation of the testing process.
• Adhering to safety procedures while preparing and administering the radiopharmaceuticals that ensure neither the patient nor the technologist will be exposed to harmful levels of radiation.
• Operating and maintaining the scanner machinery.
• Keeping detailed records for each test and each patient to make sure testing is done properly and that physicians have access to reliable, up-to-date patient information.
Employment and Pay Outlook For Nuclear Medical Technologists
The number of nuclear medical technologists should increase about 19% by the year 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, because it is a relatively small occupation, this percentage increase will translate into only about 4,100 jobs. Many of the jobs will be a result of an aging population needing more nuclear medical tests, such as those that detect heart disease, according to the BLS.
The median annual salary for a nuclear medical technologist was $68,560 in 2010, according to the BLS.
Nuclear Medicine Degrees and Certificates
Most nuclear medical technologists earn an associate’s degree in nuclear medicine technology. Some employers might prefer that job candidates hold a bachelor’s degree. The profession is also open to those who have earned 2-year or 4-year degrees in other healthcare fields such as nursing or radiologic technology, and then complete a 1-year certification course in nuclear medicine technology.
Typically, a nuclear medicine technology degree or certification program will include coursework in human anatomy and physiology, chemistry, radioactive drugs and computer science, as well as hands-on practice under the supervision of a physician or a nuclear medicine technologist.
Most states require a license for a nuclear medical technologist. Obtaining certification will often eliminate the need for further exams or testing at the state level. Both the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board and the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists offer certifications for nuclear medicine technologists.
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