If you have a keen interest in a people orientated career incorporating the health sciences and computer technology why not consider a career as a Nuclear Medicine Technologist.
What is Nuclear Medicine?
Nuclear Medicine is a diagnostic medical imaging and treatment speciality. It combines elements of applied anatomy and physiology, chemistry, physics, mathematics and computing with patient care skills.
Radioactive tracers are administered to patients in order to diagnose and/or treat disease. Nuclear Medicine differs from other imaging techniques such as X-ray and CT by giving information the function of the systems of the body. However, as imaging technology advances, close correlation with radiological techniques is essential.
The use of these radioactive tracers is closely monitored.The techniques are very safe both for the patient and for the technologist.
What type of person is suited to a career as a Nuclear Medicine Technologist?
A wide variety of people would be suited to a career as a Nuclear Medicine Technologist.The most important factor is an ability to work and communicate well with people.
While knowledge of science obviously plays an essential part practical skills including patient care and interpersonal skills are equally important.
What does a Clinical Technologist in Nuclear Medicine do?
The precise roles of the Nuclear Medicine Technologist vary in different departments but can include:
- The preparation and/or administration of the radioactive tracers (radiopharmaceuticals).
- Obtaining the images using an imaging machine called a gamma camera.
- Gaining the patient’s trust, explaining the procedure, answering the patient’s questions and obtaining additional information from the patient relevant to the procedure.
- Monitoring and reassuring the patient during the procedures – this may involve specialised skills when working with children.
- Processing the acquired images using sophisticated, but generally easy to use, computer software.
- Presenting the processed images and any additional information obtained from the patient to either a Nuclear Medicine Physician or Radiologist.
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How do I train?
There are two main routes to qualification as a Nuclear Medicine Technologist.
One route is via a BSc in Clinical Technology with specialisation in Nuclear Medicine during the degree. This is combined with training based upon formal practical experience in Nuclear Medicine, covering the competencies listed in the Training Prospectus for Nuclear Medicine. This would take four years (part-time degree).
Another route is to take a BSc in Radiography, which takes three years, and then specialise in Nuclear Medicine, after first qualifying as a Radiographer. Practical experience can be obtained by working in a Nuclear Medicine department with an option to take a postgraduate qualification, an additional minimum of two years.
Other routes to qualification as a Clinical Technologist may be possible for suitable graduates in other disciplines. These would involve exemption from part of the Clinical Technology Degree, or studying a Postgraduate qualification in Nuclear Medicine, linked to formal in-service training. This would take at least three years.
How do I become state registered?
For Clinical Technologists, registration is currently on a voluntary basis with the Voluntary Register of Clinical Technologists, administered by the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine.
Early in 2006, Clinical Technologists will become registered under the Health Professions Council. In future you will have to take an approved Clinical Technology degree to obtain registration.
For the alternative route, Radiographers become registered with the Health Professions Council when they complete their BSc Radiography.
Where could I work?
Most Nuclear Medicine Technologists are employed in hospitals within the NHS.Opportunities exist for employment in the private sector following training.
What opportunities for advancement are there?
Technologists can advance within the field by building on their skills and knowledge. Enhanced roles include conducting cardiac stress testing, reporting and teaching. Technologists may also be promoted into management roles. Additionally opportunities exist within education and industry for experienced technologists.