Over the last five years the role of the nuclear medicine technologist has become more complex. This has primarily been due to the increased demand for more complex nuclear medicine procedures, such as myocardial perfusion scans and positron emission tomography (PET). It is now fairly routine for technologists to perform their own injections, and perform advanced computer processing, along with imaging the patient and checking their own films.
As the equipment in the nuclear medicine department becomes more sophisticated, so do the skills of the nuclear medicine technologist. For example some gamma cameras and PET scanners are combined with a computerised tomography x-ray system. This requires the operator to have the necessary skills to operate two separate imaging systems and a sound knowledge of cross sectional anatomy. Working with these new technologies demands a continued commitment to education and research.
In some departments senior technologists have extended their roles, which involves performing duties that were formally in the medical domain. For example:
- Running cardiac stress sessions
- Issuing technical reports
- Administering therapy radionuclides
- Sentinel node injections
These are just a few examples but there are many more, so there is scope for advanced practice in nuclear medicine. The British Nuclear Medicine society is currently actively trying to enhance the role of the nuclear medicine technologist.
Training of Nuclear Medicine Technologists
About 50 % of Nuclear medicine Technologists are trained first as Radiographers and then train in nuclear medicine. The remainder are directly trained as technologists. The education of technologists is a continually evolving process. For details of this training in your area contact one of the BNMS technology group members listed below.
Why Choose Nuclear Medicine as a Career?
Nuclear medicine technologists are able to bring together knowledge and skills from the academic fields of physics and Biology. These are combined with the practical skills required to work with both precision equipment and people who are often frightened and anxious. Patients have their own individual worries and physical problems. Dealing with these in a professional but caring way that will maximise the value of the procedure and minimise the effect on the patient is probably the most important and most difficult skill a technologist must master.
This makes for a very interesting and varied workload, which brings new challenges every day. It is a career that provides an important and worthwhile service and yet still demands a high level of skill and technology. It also means being part of a multidisciplinary team sharing knowledge with others.