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Nuclear medicine technology involves the use of radioactive materials, called radiopharmaceuticals, to obtain images of organs, study body functions, analyze biological specimens and treat disease. Nuclear medicine technologists apply the art and skill of diagnostic imaging and therapeutics through the safe and effective use of radionuclides.
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 gamma cameras can detect the radiation emitted by the radiopharmaceutical concentrated in the organ. The camera produces a digital image of the organ. These images allow medical professionals to study the structure and measure the function of the organ as well as identify tumors, areas of infection or other disorders.
Nuclear medicine technologists play an integral role in the health care team, working with patients, physicians, physicists, nuclear pharmacists, computer specialists, nurses, secretaries and other health care professionals.
The field of nuclear medicine technology has grown significantly over the past few years with the addition of hybrid imaging combining nuclear medicine with computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Nuclear medicine technologists are in demand throughout the U.S. and career opportunities are good.
With the growth of the middle-aged and older adult populations, demand will increase for diagnostic procedures, including nuclear medicine testing. In addition, advances in medical technology will likely increase the diagnostic use of nuclear medicine.
Nuclear medicine technologists are employed in hospitals, universities, medical clinics and research centers across the U.S. and abroad. Opportunities for advancement may include positions such as lead technologist, research technologist, management or positions within education. In addition, specialty certifications are available in nuclear cardiology, computed tomography and positron emission tomography for qualified technologists.
The Mayo Clinic Department of Radiology actively recruits nuclear medicine technologists as needed to serve patient needs. Search Mayo Clinic jobs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, annual salaries in 2015 were between $52,950 and $100,080, with a median of $73,360 (most recent data available). Salaries depend on employer and location, as well as work experience.
According to a recent survey conducted by the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board, many survey respondents had more than 20 years of experience, indicating significant job retention and satisfaction.