How to become a Nuclear Medicine Technologist
A nuclear medicine technologist is responsible for administering radiopharmaceuticals to a patient and then, using specially-designed machinery, taking images of the tissues and organs inside the body. These images are used by other medical professionals in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases like cancer. Entering the field requires education and clinical training.
There are two ways to obtain an education in nuclear medicine technology. The primary way is to complete an accredited degree program. Vocational, community, and technical colleges usually offer two-year degrees while 4-year colleges and universities offer bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. These programs can be completed in 1 to 4 years depending on the school and the student’s ambitions. Another option is to obtain training through a hospital. However, these certificate programs are usually reserved for people that already have medical training (e.g. nurses).
The types of classes you can expect to take as part of a nuclear medicine technologist program includes chemistry, biology, anatomy, radiopharmaceuticals, diagnostic imaging, radiation safety, and mathematics. Clinical training is also required. Students receive hands-on instruction while under the supervision of a licensed nuclear medicine doctor or technologist. When looking at educational programs, make sure they have been accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education Programs. This ensures the program meets or exceeds industry standards for education.
Nuclear medicine technology is a high technical field that requires practitioners to handle hazardous material. As such, many states require professionals to be licensed and the majority of employers in the industry prefer to hire people with professional credentials. Licensing information can be obtained from your local health board. Credentialing can be obtained through the American Registry of Radiologic Technologist (AART) or Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB). To obtain a certification, you are required to complete an accredited program in nuclear medicine, complete a certain number of clinical hours, and pass an exam. More information about credentialing can be obtained by visiting the websites of AART or NMTCB.
Those with a combination of education, experience, and credentials will experience the best job opportunities. Many nuclear medicine technologists work independently once they have proven their skills and knowledge to the satisfaction of their employers. Advancement opportunities are available for those that would like to move up the corporate ladder. However, additional education may be required. To be successful in this field, you must possess several personal characteristics including: good interpersonal skills, detail oriented, and ability to handle technology. Completion of continuing education is also required as the technology used in this industry is constantly changing.