Registered nurses working in Nuclear Medicine have at least 2 years post registration experience and many are highly skilled practitioners in the field.
Nuclear Medicine Nurses educate patients and their carers in order that they can make informed choices about their investigations and treatment.They educate nursing and medical staff (both on the wards and those visiting nuclear medicine) about basic nuclear medicine principles and procedures and support training with supervised practice. They inform other nuclear medicine staff about nursing care such as assessment of patient’s condition, pain control and comfort. They train staff to recognise emergency situations such as hypoglycaemia, anaphylaxis and problems associated with the critically ill.
Nurses working in Nuclear Medicine are often involved in or instigate audit and research in order to assess quality of care provided and where possible improve the way in which procedures are performed. Also, Nuclear Medicine nurses can be involved in Phase 1 and Phase2 clinical trials.
Nurses may co-ordinate some sessions or clinics to ensure smooth running and continuity of care.
The multidisciplinary team, comprising doctors, physicists, pharmacists, radiographers, technologists, nurses and administrative staff, contribute to the work in nuclear medicine. For the department to run smoothly, the various staff groups need to understand each other's role and communicate effectively. The nurse can have a vital role in ensuring effective liaison between staff. Since many in-patients attend Nuclear Medicine, the nurse can be a key point of contact for communication between the wards/units and the department, not only in ensuring the best possible continuity of care for the patients, but also in updating and developing the knowledge of ward nurses and doctors.
The nurse has an important role in the procedures which are undertaken in Nuclear Medicine. Sometimes the nurses may co-ordinate and undertake procedures, whilst at other times their role is to assist other members of the multidisciplinary team.
Often the nurses have a responsibility for the routine checking of essential equipment such as resuscitation equipment. In addition they may take responsibility for the ordering and purchasing of consumables and medication. Some procedures require patients to consume a fatty diet during their investigation and this may be ordered by the nurse.
What sort of Skills are required?
As Nuclear Medicine departments provide a wide variety of investigations to patients from such a large background, the nurse needs to be aware that the role can be diverse and change quite quickly. Adaptability is thus a key requirement. In addition, a good general knowledge of Nuclear Medicine will be required.
The following specific skills are required;
• Adaptable to changing situations
• Be flexible to meet the needs of patients and procedures.
• Good communication skills are essential.
• Provide support and education to patients, carers and staff.
• Critically evaluate changing situations and potential hazards to patients and staff.
• Ability to learn in a changing and growing speciality.
. Many departments have services for adults and pediatrics, therefore an understanding of the needs of pediatrics is important to meet their special needs.
• Assessment of visiting and new staff in Nuclear Medicine, regarding techniques such as cannulation.
• Having a good sense of humour is an asset!
What sort of training and qualifications are required?
Much of the training for Nuclear Medicine nursing is performed locally, though it is essential that skills and knowledge are updated regularly. For example, attending study days such as:
• The Law and the Nurse
• Culture and Religions
• Venepuncture and cannulation
• Radiation Protection Legislation covering staff (IRR99) and patients (IR(ME)R2000). Ask your local RPA.
The role of the nurse varies somewhat between departments, so qualifications will depend upon what each specific department expects and desires.
Where to find information.
The best advice is to contact the nearest Nuclear Medicine Department and try to arrange an informal visit.
Unfortunately, there are limited publications available specifically for nurses, so the Nurses Group have produced a newsletter called ‘Gamma Nurse’, which is not currently in print. Further information about the group can be obtained from:-
Carolyn Lory BNMS Nurses Group Chair
Senior Sister / Therapy Lead
Department of Nuclear Medicine | Medway Maritime Hospital
Telephone 01634 833913