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What Does a Nuclear Medical Technologist Do?

By YaShekia King
Updated May 17, 2024
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Nuclear medical technologists are professionals who give radioactive drugs to patients to help physicians to determine the nature of their sicknesses. Unlike technicians, who typically have earned only a one-year certificate or a two-year associate degrees at the undergraduate level, technologists have completed four-year bachelor’s degree programs in this field. Some one-year certificate programs are actually designed for medical professionals who already possess their four-year degrees as well. A person who works as a nuclear medical technologist gives special drugs to patients and uses cameras to pinpoint health issues. He or she also must have strong oral and writing skills in addition to keeping his or her knowledge of the field current.

A nuclear medical technologist first is responsible for giving radiopharmaceuticals to people. These are drugs that feature radioactive atoms, which are basic units of matter that emit energetic particles. This type of professional must take special care not to expose patients or fellow workers to high amounts of radiation, which can cause health problems such as cancer. He or she also has to know how to properly situate patients before giving them industry drugs orally or via injection.

The ability to use technology is a must in this career area. Someone who would like to become a nuclear medical technologist must be able to use a camera that reveals the activity of a radiopharmaceutical in a person’s body and then generate film or computer-based images that doctors study to determine the presence of illnesses. If the healthcare worker chooses to specialize in an area of this industry called positron emission tomography (PET), he or she must also understand how to use special devices that produce three-dimensional pictures of a person’s body.

Honing verbal and written communication skills constitutes another valuable duty in this line of work. A person who works in this job field has to be able to speak well because he or she often has to explain the details of upcoming procedures to patients when working as a nuclear medical technologist. He or she additionally keeps medical records of the amount of radiation given to patients.

Completing continuing education courses is also important in order for a person in this job field to be successful. These types of classes are available at industry conferences or colleges and universities, and enable a professional in the industry to stay up-to-date on developments in medical procedures. Earning education credits allows a nuclear medical technologist to maintain his or her license, which is required to practice in certain regions. Voluntary certification is additionally available and, like a license, is earned by passing a comprehensive examination.

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