The Scoop on Nuclear Medicine Technologists
Whether you can say it right or not, Nuclear Medicine is an old AND an up and coming field in the medical community.
What in the World Does a Nuclear Medicine Technologist Do?
Nuclear Medicine Technologists use equipment that utilizes what can best be described as "unstable atoms" to detect and diagnose diseases in the body. Typically this means that the procedure is not invasive, but the patient may have to help the process along.
If you were working in Nuclear Medicine you would be charged with preparing patients for procedures beforehand (this usually means giving them instructions for what to do the night before and also providing them with a Radionuclide substance that the patient should drink before they come in for the procedure. Other times this substance may need to be injected into the patient's bloodstream.
You would use your equipment to detect where the substance is going in the patient's body. By dong so you can see abnormalities in the patient's issues and organs. Essentially, he substance you are tracking acts as a highlighter inside the patient's body. Because you are handling Radiation in one form or another your exposure to radiation will be closely monitored to insure your safety.
After each procedure you would be charged with notating the patient's records and answering any questions they have. All in all, you do a lot of legwork for each individual procedure.
What Kind of Training do I need (A.K.A. - Will I have to go to School?)
Training for a job in Nuclear medicine is much the same as it is in any other area of medical imaging (picture taking.) You can go to a vocational school or training program (that might be at a hospital) and spend about a year training in Nuclear Medicine. You may want to go back to college and get an Associate's Degree (2 years) or go all the way through and get your Bachelor's Degree (4 years.) Each of these programs is viable for a jobseeker, but (obviously) the more education you get the more attractive you are to employers.
Not every state requires a license to practice as a Nuclear Medicine Technologist so you need to check with your state medical board for the rules in your area. If you do not need a license you may want to get certified from the ARRT or the NMTCB (American Registry of Radiologic Technologists and the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board.) Certifications from these agencies may not be required, but they make you look much better to potential employers. If you are required to get a license in your state you could combine that with certification from one of these agencies and make yourself look even better. (The more initials after you name - the better off you are.)
How Do I get One of These Jobs Anyways?
67% of Nuclear Technologists work in Hospitals and the remainder worked in Doctor's offices, for government agencies, and as independent contractors. IF you're working in a Hospital you might be working in an office near your equipment and the patients are coming to you. You might also have to wheel your equipment around the hospital to get to patients who do not move around too well. Hospital work is the busiest area in this profession and it will require a great deal of stamina.
If you were working in a Doctor's office you might be the only imaging specialist on-site and that might mean that you would also have to be skilled in other forms of medical imaging.
Advancement in the field would require some movement in order to get more pay and more responsibility. You might be able to become "Director of Medical Imaging" at a Hospital or you could become "The Specialist" in a Doctor's office or health clinic. You may also want to get into research to improve the Nuclear Technology equipment that you use or you could teach Nuclear Medicine at a training program or college.
Still others might get into sales of the equipment that they use. This field has much potential because commissioned sales on expensive equipment CAN be quite lucrative. Plus, companies will only want people who are experienced using the equipment to be selling it.