Nuclear Medicine Radiologist
Nuclear medicine radiologists,
also called nuclear radiologists, are physicians who use radioactive
materials, called radiopharmaceuticals, to diagnose and treat
disease. They employ such techniques as scintigraphy, which uses
radiopharmaceuticals to produce images of the body's organs or to
visualize certain diseases. These radioactive materials are
typically injected into a patient's vein, but may also be inhaled or
ingested by the patient.
Nuclear medicine radiologists also utilize radiopharmaceuticals to
treat hyperthyroidism, thyroid cancer, solid tumors or painful bone
After graduating from medical school, nuclear medicine radiologists
must complete a lengthy four-year residency in diagnostic radiology
to be trained in a wide variety of imaging techniques, including the
diagnostic and therapeutic use of radioactive pharmaceuticals.
Nuclear radiologists are further required to have one or more years
of additional nuclear medicine training. All educational programs
must be certified by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical
Nuclear pharmacists, once known
as radiopharmacists, specialize in preparing, dispensing and
distributing radiopharmaceuticals, or radioactive drugs. They are
part of the nuclear medicine team and provide consultation regarding
health and safety issues. Nuclear pharmacists may work in a number
• Nuclear pharmacies
• Government and private research institutes
• control the inventory of radioactive drugs and other supplies.
• prepare radiopharmaceuticals.
• fill prescription orders.
• check instruments and equipment for quality assurance purposes.
• properly handle dangerous substances and biological specimens.
• ensure that patients receive proper preparation before administering
A nuclear pharmacist may also take an active role in educating
nuclear medicine technologists and/or nuclear medicine residents.
In order to become a nuclear pharmacist one must receive the
• 200 hours of classroom instruction in basic radioisotope handling
techniques specifically applicable to the use of unsealed sources is
required. Part of the training should include lectures and
laboratory sessions on radiopharmaceutical chemistry, radiation
physics and instrumentation, mathematics of radioactivity, radiation
biology, and radiation protection.
• 500 hours in handling unsealed radioactive material under a qualified
All nuclear pharmacists must attend an institution with a nuclear
pharmacy program and obtain certification through the Board of
Pharmaceutical Specialties (BPS). Nuclear pharmacists are then
considered Board Certified Nuclear Pharmacists (BCNP).
Nuclear Medicine Physicist
Nuclear medicine physicists work
with nuclear imaging instrumentation and radiation dosimetry. They
are considered experts in dealing with the interactions between
ionizing radiation and matter. Many of them also have expertise in
computer science and image processing. As an integral part of the
nuclear medicine team, the physicist provides assistance with the
physical aspects of new applications for nuclear medicine, can
perform tests on new equipment, develop and maintain a quality
control program for equipment, make dosimetric calculations or
create computer programs for clinical use.
A nuclear medicine physicist who has expertise in image
reconstruction and data analysis is able to assist in determining
the best possible approaches for processing various kinds of nuclear
Nuclear medicine physicists traditionally work in research labs
where they develop new instrumentation and data analysis approaches
for future generations of nuclear and molecular imaging.
To guarantee proper safety of patients, fellow co-workers, staff and
the public, many nuclear medicine physicists are involved with
radiation protection work.
The role of a nuclear medicine physicist requires having a solid
scientific background, a capacity for innovation, attention to
detail and most of all, the capability to work within a
multidisciplinary team of technologists, clinicians, pharmacists and
Prior to becoming a nuclear medicine physicist, one usually
undergoes general training as a medical physicist.
Nuclear medicine physicists have a master's or doctorate degree in
one of the following fields:
• Medical Physics
• Radiologic Physics
• Applied Mathematics
• Other physical sciences
To become certified, nuclear medicine physicists must complete two
to three years of clinical experience and training. They can obtain
certification in Nuclear Medicine Physics or Radiation Protection
through the American Board of Science in Nuclear Medicine or in
Medical Nuclear Physics through the American Board of Radiology
Nuclear Medicine Technologist
A nuclear medicine technologist works
closely with the nuclear medicine radiologist. The technologists may
prepare and administer radiopharmaceuticals, perform imaging
procedures, enhance images utilizing a computer and analyze biologic
During an imaging procedure, the nuclear medicine technologist works
with the patient. The technologist obtains important patient
history, describes imaging procedures and answers questions,
monitors the physical condition of the patient during procedures and
takes note of patient comments which may be useful to the physician
in interpreting procedure results.
A nuclear medicine technologist is able to work in any of the
following clinical settings:
• Community hospitals
• Outpatient imaging centers
• Public health facilities
• University-affiliated teaching hospitals and medical institutions
• Government and private research institutes
There are also several areas of concentration they can focus on:
• Research technologist
• Senior staff technologist
• Technologist program educator
• Hospital administrator
• Chief technologist
• Team leader, lead or supervisor
• Industry sales representatives, technical specialist or
Typically, one who is interested in becoming a nuclear medicine
technologist has a background in science and math, as well as an
interest in working with patients. Three programs in particular are
• Post-baccalaureate one-year certificate programs
• Two-year associate degree
• Four-year bachelor's degree
With additional training, a technologist can specialize and work
almost exclusively with specialized radiographic equipment, such as