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Radioactive pharmaceuticals are given to patients, via injection or some other means, to enable a nuclear medicine technologist to more readily see whether disease is present in the body. In other words, when the radioactive pharmaceuticals are given to a patient, it will result in diseased areas being highlighted. Medical diagnostic equipment will then be able to detect the disease, as it will show up on a diagnostic image. This is how a nuclear medicine technologist helps physicians diagnose patients' illnesses. If you aspire to become a nuclear medicine technologist, you will generally need a college degree and post-graduate certification.
Some states allow licensure without a four-year nuclear medicine degree; however, other states require a four-year nuclear medicine degree. Thus, if you hope to become a nuclear medicine technologist, it can be most helpful if you get a bachelor's degree in nuclear medicine. Coursework during the nuclear medicine degree will include courses such as biology, medical imaging equipment, and courses specifically pertaining to radioactive materials in medical diagnosis.
Also, if you hope to get a nuclear medicine degree, there will be a required practicum where you will have supervised experience in a hospital or other medical setting. The purpose of this is to make sure you fully understand the information you have learned in the classroom. For instance, you will learn about radiation safety standards and how to record the amount of radioactive pharmaceuticals you use in each patient.
Most likely you will apply for a job as a nuclear medicine technologist during the last semester of college. The career services department at your school can help you to find a job. You could also do an online job search at a medical-related website that has specific listings for nuclear medicine technologist jobs.
In combination with schooling, certification can be helpful for your career. Granted, certification rules differ depending on the locale you hope to work in. Thus, it is always a good idea to check local laws pertaining to nuclear medicine technologist practice. If you seek certification, please note there is a certification offered by the American Registry of Radiological Technologists (AART) and another certification offered via the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB).
Once you begin working as a nuclear medicine technologist, you will likely specialize in nuclear cardiology or positron emission tomography (PET). Nuclear cardiology-related work involves imaging where patients have to exercise so as to enable the nuclear medicine technologist to get images of the blood flowing into the heart area to find out if there are any problems. PET technologists use imaging equipment that enables them to get three-dimensional images of the entire body.
If you hope to become a nuclear medicine technologist, it is helpful to have good social skills, because much of a nuclear medicine technologist's work involves talking to patients and helping them feel calm about undergoing the diagnostic procedure. Also, it is important for a nuclear medicine technologist to stay abreast of new developments in technology. There are often improvements every year, so a nuclear medicine technologist's job is never done when it comes to reading and staying informed about how to operate the diagnostic equipment properly. Of course, if you have good social skills and if you can stay abreast of the changes in technology, you can become a nuclear medicine technologist.
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