A nuclear medicine technologist is a health-care professional who uses radioactive materials to diagnose and treat diseases. This specialist serves as an assistant to doctors, and works in conjunction with other medical staff at clinics and hospitals.

NMTs perform procedures like X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs). Illnesses are diagnosed with the use of radiopharmaceuticals, which produce higher radiation levels in diseased tissues.

This type of technologist is skilled in operating cameras and other sophisticated imaging equipment to monitor how the drugs affect tissues and organs. The job also entails preparing patients for examinations, analyzing test results in laboratories, and other duties.

Becoming an NMT requires education, training, and certification. As a result of the high demand for people in this specialty, handsome salaries are available. NMTs also have the satisfaction of serving people in need, helping them to recover from disease or illness.

Nuclear Medicine Technologist Job Description

An NMT must be adept at a variety of skills, from effectively communicating with patients to operating complicated imaging, computer, and laboratory equipment. Other tasks include administering radiopharmaceuticals, studying diagnostic images, and conducting lab analyses.

NMTs provide comfort and assistance to patients before, during, and after examinations and procedures. They monitor oxygen and intravenous tubes, making sure everything is sanitary and operational. Preparing patients for procedures may involve hydration, bowel cleansing, the fitting of catheters, or other actions.

NMTs generally are responsible for maintaining and improving the quality-control program of a clinic or hospital. This requires regularly examining all the equipment, and conducting various tests to ensure it is accurately calibrated and functioning correctly.

NMTs oversee the ordering, storage, handling, and disposal of radiopharmaceuticals. They often are also in charge of maintaining the inventory of medical supplies, drugs, and other materials.

The job duties of a NMT includes the following:
  • Meet with patients to obtain their medical histories, and explain diagnostic procedures and tests
  • Collect blood and urine samples from patients
  • Determine and prepare the equipment and supplies required for an examination or procedure
  • Prepare and administer the proper dose of radiopharmaceuticals to patients, by injection or inhalation
  • Lift and slide patients to position them for cameras, to obtain diagnostic images
  • Analyze diagnostic images and the results of lab tests
  • Employ safety methods (including the use of syringe shields, gloves, and personal radiation-monitoring devices) to protect patients and the medical staff from radiation exposure
  • Oversee quality control, regularly subjecting equipment to a wide range of tests
  • Work under the supervision of physicians, and in coordination with other medical professionals
  • Create and update patient records

Nuclear Medicine Technologist Prerequisites

A nuclear medicine technologist is in a position to have a significant impact on patients’ lives, by properly diagnosing their diseases and illnesses. This requires focus, attention to detail, and strong analytical skills.

Long working hours are sometimes involved in this profession. NMTs may be on call, meaning they can be summoned to work late at night or on weekends. They must be in reasonably good physical shape, to have the strength to lift and move patients. An NMT also might have to stand for hours at a time. Radiation exposure can be an occupational hazard, but not if proper procedures are followed.

How to Become a Nuclear Medicine Technologist

To become a professional in this field, a student must first complete a nuclear medicine technology program. Typically, most graduates obtain an associate’s degree (2 years) in nuclear medicine technology through community colleges, but some may go for a bachelor’s degree (4 years) in an accredited college or university. Others who already possess a bachelor’s degree in a related health field such as nursing can also pursue a career in nuclear medicine. However, they must take a 12-month certificate program usually offered through hospitals in order to become a NMT.

NMT majors take a number of science classes. They also study the uses and effects of radiation techniques, safety procedures, the administration of radiopharmaceuticals, diagnostic imaging methods, and the use of computers and other medical equipment.

Nuclear Medicine Technologist Certification

Many states, as well as hospitals and clinics that hire NMTs, require a certificate or license. Two-year certificate programs are available at some hospitals. Medical professionals who already have an undergraduate degree may earn a certificate in one year.

Those planning to enter the field should check the websites of their states’ medical-licensing boards to learn whether a state-issued license is required. Some legislatures have passed laws mandating that NMTs obtain credentials from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists or the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board.

Nuclear Medicine Technologist Salary

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Nuclear Medicine Technologist Job Description Summary

Here is a short recap of the nuclear medicine technologist job description:
  • Use radioactive materials to diagnose and treat diseases
  • Work with physicians and nurses
  • Minimum 2 year associate’s degree
  • Most states requires a license to practice
  • 20% employment growth by 2022