What Does a Nuclear Medicine Technician Do?

Do you have an interest in the field of health care? Do you love science, stay physically fit, and enjoy working independently? If so, you might like to work as a nuclear medicine technician. Read on for more information about the job duties and educational requirements for this career. Schools offering Diagnostic Medical Sonography degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Description

Nuclear medicine technicians or nuclear medicine technologists (NMTs) use radioactive materials to diagnose and treat diseases under the supervision of a physician. They prepare radiopharmaceuticals, administer them to patients, and use imaging devices to record the distribution within a patient's body. Nurses and physicians then use these images to diagnose maladies of the internal organs, nervous or circulatory system. There are several areas in which you may sub-specialize, such as nuclear cardiology (imaging of the circulation around the heart) or positron-emission tomography (PET) and 3-D imaging.

Important Facts About Nuclear Medicine Technicians

Job Outlook (2014-2024) 2% growth
Key Skills Computer competency, critical thinking, problem solving, time management, empathy, attention to detail, physical endurance
Work Environment Hospitals; physicians offices; medical and diagnostic laboratories; outpatient care centers
Similar Occupations Radiation therapists; radiologic and MRI technologists; medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians; diagnostic medical sonographers; cardiovascular technologists and technicians

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Skills Required and Work Environment

Nuclear medicine technicians need good communication skills because you must explain procedures and comfort anxious patients. You should also be physically fit because you occasionally have to lift or move patients, as well as spend long hours walking and standing while you operate equipment. Most of your work will likely be performed in hospital imaging departments or in a physician's office, though opportunities also exist working for imaging services that travel to clients. In addition, while most of your work will likely be during normal business hours, you might be asked to work on-call and may work weekends or holidays.

Education

Typically, a nuclear medicine technician possesses an associate's or bachelor's degree in nuclear medicine technology. Some schools also offer 1-year nuclear medicine technology certificate programs for health care professionals who want to switch to or specialize in this field. While enrolled in a degree program, you may take courses in anatomy, physiology, patient care, radiation safety, and radiopharmacy. Much of your coursework will be practical, in the form of externships and clinical experiences, learning how to operate various imaging devices and work with patients.

Certification and Licensure

NMTs must be licensed in 26 states, according to the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB) in 2015 (www.nmtcb.org). Some of these states accept the certification exams from the NMTCB or the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) for NMT licensure, or allow you to take a state exam. Maintaining licensure typically requires continuing education.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), certification is not required, but many employers prefer candidates with professional credentials from either the ARRT or NMTCB, particularly since some insurance companies and third-party payers will only cover the services of a certified or registered nuclear medicine technician (www.bls.gov).

Salary

According to PayScale.com, the majority of nuclear medicine technologists earn between $48,570 and $85,008 a year, as of September 2015. The BLS reported in May 2014 the median annual salary earned by nuclear medicine technologists as $72,100.

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