Nuclear Medicine Technologists
On the Job
Nuclear medicine technologists give patients radioactive drugs or radiation treatments.
Did you know that humans are radioactive? Yes, it's true. Each person contains a very small amount of radioactivity. Even rocks and soil are somewhat radioactive. Obviously, the level of radioactivity is quite low. You might expect that when patients get treatments in nuclear medicine they're exposed to high levels of radioactivity. Actually, they receive lower doses of radioactivity than what a person is exposed to in a year from participating in activities such as watching TV and wearing a wristwatch.Recent scientific advances have made it possible to use radioactive materials in medical tests. The materials are put into a form that can be given to patients. The amount of the drug that is absorbed by the body helps doctors diagnose illnesses. Before they give patients the drugs, technologists review the patient's medical history and explain the procedure. Using a computer, they calculate how much radiation or radioactive drug the treatment will require. They prepare the proper dosage and give it to the patient by mouth, injection, or other means.
Technologists use cameras that detect radioactive drugs as they move through patients' bodies. To track the movement of drugs, technologists arrange patients and the equipment in the proper position. Then they start the camera, also known as a scanner. The scanner monitors the path of the radioactive drug in the body. This path appears as images on a computer screen or on film. Technologists print out the pictures for doctors to interpret. In addition, they monitor patients during procedures and enter test results into patients' records. The procedure for giving radiation treatments is similar. Technologists position patients and equipment properly. Then they program computers so that patients receive the correct amount of radiation. After the tests or treatments are given, technologists record the results.
Nuclear medicine technologists may perform studies to assess how radioactive materials act inside the body. For example, they add materials to a blood sample and observe the changes. They may also run tests on cardiac function. They also develop procedures for treatment programs. In addition, technologists maintain and adjust laboratory equipment. Following safety procedures, they dispose of and store radioactive materials. They keep track of the amount and type of radiation disposed of and used. They may also purchase materials. In addition, they may train and supervise other technologists and those studying in nuclear medicine programs.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Explain test procedures to patients.
- Review patients' medical history to help determine a treatment plan.
- Measure, prepare, and record the proper dosage of radiation or radioactive drugs.
- Give patients radioactive drugs or radiation treatment. Assist them during the procedure, if necessary.
- Position patients and radiation equipment.
- Monitor patients using scanners and other laboratory equipment.
- Operate cameras that monitor the path of the radioactive drug in the body.
- Produce images on a computer screen or on photographic film.
- Keep track of the amount and type of radiation used and disposed of.
- Record the results of procedures.
- Store and dispose of radioactive materials. Follow safety procedures.
- Maintain and adjust laboratory equipment.
- May train and supervise other technologists and nuclear medicine students.
- Perform studies to assess the behavior of a radioactive substance inside the body.
- Develop procedures for treatment programs.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Care for others.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Use computers.
- Update and use job-related knowledge.
- Work with the public.
- Inspect equipment, structures, or materials.
- Evaluate information against standards.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Document and record information.
- Schedule work and activities.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Perform activities that use the whole body.
- Coordinate the work and activities of others.
- Process information.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Teach others.
- Identify objects, actions, and events.
- Analyze data or information.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Are responsible for the health and safety of patients.
- Have a high level of social contact. They constantly talk to patients and doctors.
- Communicate by telephone and in person on a daily basis. They also write e-mail, letters, and memos, but less often.
- Are sometimes placed in conflict situations where people might become rude or angry. Patients and family members may become upset by test results.
- Regularly work as part of a team.
- Almost always work indoors.
- Are often exposed to radiation.
- Are sometimes exposed to disease and infections from their contact with patients.
- Regularly wear special safety attire, such as shielded gloves and badges that measure radiation levels.
- Often use special devices to protect them from radiation.
- Are exposed to contaminants and hazardous conditions on a weekly basis.
- Work very near others. They are in close physical contact with patients.
- Must be very exact in their work. Errors could seriously injure patients, themselves, or coworkers.
- Make decisions that strongly impact their employer, patients, and coworkers on a regular basis. They rarely consult a supervisor before deciding a course of action.
- Set most of their daily tasks and goals without talking to a supervisor first.
- Abide by strict weekly deadlines. This may make the work atmosphere somewhat competitive.
- Repeat the same physical or mental activities.
- May work part time or full time. Most work full time.
- May work days, evenings, or weekends.
- Generally work a set schedule.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Use hands to handle, control, or feel objects, tools, or controls.
- Stand while positioning patients and equipment.
- Walk or run for long periods of time.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- See details of objects that are less than a few feet away.
- Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold the hand steady while moving the arm.
- Make quick, precise adjustments to machine controls.
- Use fingers to grasp, move, or assemble objects.
- Use one or two hands to grasp, move, or assemble objects.
- See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
- See details of objects that are more than a few feet away.
- Use stomach and lower back muscles to support the body for long periods without getting tired.
- Determine the distance between objects.
- Bend, stretch, twist, or reach out.
- Move two or more limbs together (for example, two arms, two legs, or one leg and one arm) while remaining in place.
- React quickly using hands, fingers, or feet.
- Adjust body movements or equipment controls to keep pace with speed changes of moving objects.
- Coordinate movement of several parts of the body, such as arms and legs, while the body is moving.
- Hear sounds and recognize the difference between them.
- Use muscles to lift, push, pull, or carry heavy objects.
- Make fast, repeated movements of fingers, hands, and wrists.
- Move arms and legs quickly.
- Choose quickly and correctly among various movements when responding to different signals.
- Be physically active for long periods without getting tired or out of breath.
- Focus on one source of sound and ignore others.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.