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 Nuclear Medicine Technology (NMT) - Job Profile & Responsibilities of a Nuclear Medicine Technologist

 

What Is Nuclear Medicine Technology?

Nuclear medicine technology involves the use of radioactive materials, called radiopharmaceuticals, to create images of organs, study body functions, analyze biological specimens and treat disease. Nuclear medicine technologists (NMTs) apply the art and skill of diagnostic imaging and therapeutics through the safe and effective use of radionuclides.

Nuclear medicine combines chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer technology, and medicine in using radioactivity to diagnose and treat disease.

Though there are many diagnostic techniques currently available, nuclear medicine uniquely provides information about both the structure and function of virtually every major organ system within the body. It is this ability to characterize and quantify physiologic function which separates nuclear medicine from other imaging modalities, such as x-ray. Nuclear medicine procedures are safe; they involve little or no patient discomfort and do not require the use of anesthesia.

Who is a Nuclear Medicine Technologist?

The Nuclear Medicine Technologist is a highly specialized healthcare professional who works closely with the nuclear medicine physician. The technologist’s primary responsibilities are to:

 

• Prepares and administers radiopharmaceuticals
• Images different organs and bodily structures
• Uses sophisticated computers to process data and enhance images
• Analyzes biological specimens in the laboratory
• Works closely with doctors, patients and other members of the health care team.

For organ-imaging procedures, radiopharmaceuticals are administered to patients intravenously, orally or by inhalation. The radioactive material concentrates in a specific organ or organ system. Instruments called scintillation cameras can detect the radiation emitted by the radiopharmaceutical concentrated in the organ. The camera produces a computer image of the organ. The images allow medical professionals to study the structure and measure the function of the organ, and to identify tumors, areas of infection or other disorders. The radiation dose is small, and the patient experiences little or no discomfort during the procedure.

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.

Nuclear Medicine Technology - A Career Option

If you have an interest in the health sciences and computer technology and are looking for a people-oriented career, consider nuclear medicine technology. You can join in post graduate diplomas, 4 year degrees or in M.Sc programs. NMTs are employed in hospitals, universities, medical clinics and research centers.  

Contributing Writer : Jayakumar. A Lecturer, Faculty of Allied Health Sciences, Directorate of Distance Education, Sikkim Manipal University, Manipal-576104 jayakumar.a@manipalu.com 

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