2017 Nuclear Medicine Technologists
Median Pay: US$73,360
Entry Level: Associate's degree
Summary
Nuclear medicine technologists operate equipment that creates images of areas of a patient's body. They prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to patients. The radioactive drugs cause abnormal areas of the body to appear different from normal areas in the images.
Duties

Nuclear medicine technologists typically do the following:

  • Explain imaging procedures to the patient and answer questions
  • Follow safety procedures to protect themselves and the patient from unnecessary radiation exposure
  • Examine machines to ensure that they are working properly
  • Prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to the patient
  • Monitor the patient to check for unusual reactions to the drugs
  • Operate equipment that creates images of areas in the body, such as images of organs
  • Keep detailed records of procedures
  • Follow radiation disposal and safety procedures

Radioactive drugs, known as radiopharmaceuticals, give off radiation, allowing special scanners to monitor tissue and organ functions. Abnormal areas show higher-than-expected or lower-than-expected concentrations of radioactivity. Physicians and surgeons then interpret the images to help diagnose the patient's condition. For example, tumors can be seen in organs during a scan because of their concentration of the radioactive drugs.

After graduation from an accredited program, a technologist can choose to specialize in positron emission tomography (PET) or nuclear cardiology. PET uses a machine that creates a three-dimensional image of a part of the body, such as the brain. Nuclear cardiology uses radioactive drugs to obtain images of the heart. Patients may exercise during the imaging process while the technologist creates images of the heart and blood flow.

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