Bachelor of Science in Nuclear Medicine Technology
Nuclear Medicine Technology is a patient oriented career that combines chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer technology, and medicine using radioactivity to construct images of organs and study physiological processes for diagnostic, therapeutic and research purposes. In nuclear medicine procedures, radioactive materials (called radio-pharmaceuticals), are administered to patients intravenously, orally or by inhalation, localizing and concentrating in a specific organ or organ system of the body. Nuclear medicine provides unique information about both structure and function of nearly every human organ. It is the ability to characterize and quantify physiologic function that makes nuclear medicine different from an X-ray. As radio-pharmaceuticals become more sophisticated, it is becoming possible to see inside the human body at the cellular and even the molecular level (University of Wisconsin-LAX, 2008).
Nuclear Medicine students at work
Nuclear Medicine Technologist
Primary responsibilities of NMTs include (Adapted from UW-LAX, 2008):
- Preparing and administering radio-pharmaceuticals
- Working directly with patients throughout the procedure
- Operating sophisticated instrumentation and computers to generate digital images
Nuclear medicine technologists (NMT’s) explain the procedure to the patient and position them for the scan. They also administer pharmaceuticals and use a “scanner,” or gamma scintillation camera, to detect radiation emitted by the radio-pharmaceutical to produce an image and measure the physiological function of the organ. The images allow identification of tumors, areas of infection or other disorders. Abnormalities collect either more or less radio-pharmaceuticals than do normal areas of the body. The radiation dose is small, and the patient experiences little or no discomfort during the procedure.
NMTs play an integral role in the health-care team, working with patients, physicists, nuclear pharmacists, computer specialists, nurses, secretaries and other health-care professionals and are employed in hospitals, universities, medical clinics and research centers across the United States and abroad (Mayo Clinic 2003).
Nuclear Medicine students honing their skills
Personal and Technical Characteristics
NMT’s need excellent communication skills and a desire to continue learning and meticulously follow safety protocols when working with radio-pharmaceuticals in order to limit the patient’s and technologist’s exposure to unnecessary ionizing radiation and follow regulations. They must be able to effectively interact with patients and their families, be sensitive to the patient’s physical and psychological needs and work independently as there is usually little direct supervision (Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 2007).
Essential skills required to be an effective NMT include:
- Good patient relationship skills
- Attention to detail
- Critical thinking skills
- Team player attitude
- Ability to work independently
- Effective under pressure
Courses cover the physical sciences, biological effects of radiation exposure, radiation protection and procedures, the use of radio-pharmaceuticals, imaging procedures and techniques including PET and CT, patient care, and computer applications. For a more comprehensive scope and sequence, please see the curriculum map.
Nuclear Medicine students working in the lab