What Does a Nuclear Medicine Technologist Do? (With Salary)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated 19 January 2023
Published 27 April 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Diagnostic testing is crucial to treating patients for illnesses such as cancer and nuclear medical technologists play a fundamental role in conducting these tests to ensure that doctors can provide adequate treatments. People who enjoy working with medical professionals and conducting investigative work may find a career in this field fulfilling. Understanding what a nuclear medicine technologist does can help you undertake the necessary education and employment experience to secure a role. In this article, we answer the question 'What does a nuclear medicine technologist do?' and explore their work environment, job requirements, skills and salary.
What does a nuclear medicine technologist do?
Understanding the answer to 'What does a nuclear medicine technologist do?' requires a comprehensive overview of a technologist's duties and responsibilities. A nuclear medicine technologist is a medical professional who performs diagnostic tests that involve administering medication with radioactive ingredients. They use imaging devices to see how and where the radioactive ingredients manifest in the body. From this, physicians can make diagnoses based on the results. These professionals are vital to the process of finding harmful masses within the body. They can work across multiple healthcare departments.
These professionals collaborate with physicians to analyse test results and consider likely causes of illnesses. The physician can then determine the cause of the illness and the correct course of treatment, such as chemotherapy. Nuclear medicine technologists also spend a lot of time directly interacting with patients to help them feel more comfortable. Here's a list of their general duties and responsibilities:
Patient comfort involves helping the patient relax before a procedure or test so they remain still for clear imaging. This is particularly important if the patient is having magnetic resonance imaging or positron emission tomography (PET) scans. These images rely on clarity to give the technologist a clear image of any masses or abnormal tissues in the body where the radioactive material manifests. Patient comfort also refers to answering the patient's questions about the test and responding to their concerns.
Preparing the right pharmaceuticals for tests is an important duty for technologists. This ensures the patient receives the correct dose based on their height, age and weight. It also involves making sure there are safe levels of radioactivity and there's no danger to other medical personnel or patients.
Technologists also administer the radioactive drugs. They can do this intravenously, meaning they inject drugs, like radioactive glucose, into the patient's vein to prepare for a PET scan. This requires extra consideration to avoid injury or pain to the patient and ease any anxiety they have about needles.
Monitoring vitals during exams
Monitoring vitals during a medical exam involves ensuring the patient maintains a stable heartbeat, blood pressure and oxygen level during a test. This is a good indication of how calm the patient is, so it's important for technologists to pay close attention. Monitoring vitals also ensures the technologist is aware of any anxiety the patient may have about the test and can stop to give them time to compose themselves if necessary.
Related: How to Become a Radiographer
Nuclear medicine technologist work environment
Nuclear medicine technologists benefit from the ability to work in many different healthcare environments. This gives them the opportunity to diversify their skill set and expand their network by working with different healthcare professionals. This also means candidates have multiple employment options if they don't feel suited to a specific facility. Here are some examples of places nuclear medicine technologists can work:
university or teaching research facilities
medical testing centres
private medical practices
Nuclear medicine technologist's national average salary
The national average salary of a nuclear medicine technologist is $83,622 per year. Salaries can vary depending on the type of facility a technologist works in. For example, a nuclear medicine technologist working in a general health hospital may earn a different amount from a technologist working in a dedicated research institute. Technologists working in hospitals and other medical facilities that rely on shift patterns may also have the opportunity to work additional shifts to increase their salary.
Location can also make a considerable difference to a nuclear medicine technologist's salary due to differences in the cost of living. Here are the average salaries in each state:
Queensland: $87,998 per year
South Australia: $130,641 per year
New South Wales: $81,387 per year
Western Australia: $94,258 per year
Tasmania: $72,518 per year
Victoria: $74,868 per year
Related: 20 Careers in Health Science
Nuclear medicine technologist job requirements
Nuclear medicine technologists require specific qualifications and registration to show they possess the relevant skills for the role. These also ensure they're aware of the precautionary measures for handling radioactive material. Here are the requirements to practise as a nuclear medicine technologist:
Candidates require a bachelor's degree in medical radiation science before looking for employment. During their degree, they can also major in nuclear science to gain a more comprehensive understanding of handling radioactive materials, their impact on the body and the consequences of misuse. Possessing the relevant qualifications ensures they can work safely with patients and may reassure an employer that they're a suitable candidate.
To practise as a nuclear medicine technologist, candidates register with the Medical Radiation Practice Board of Australia. This board verifies that candidates meet the necessary workplace regulations and policies to ensure they work to a safe standard. Candidates also require a licence from the Radiological Council. Obtaining these accreditations demonstrates that candidates have up-to-date industry knowledge and have undergone the training necessary to work with radioactive material safely and effectively.
Skills of a nuclear medicine technologist
Nuclear medicine technologists require a unique set of skills to fulfil their basic duties to a high standard. These skills ensure they can complete medical tasks, such as operating imaging equipment and establishing a diagnosis based on a set of test results. Undergoing formal training and practising these skills in a healthcare facility may help technologists become confident and comfortable with patient interaction. Here's a guide to the skills that nuclear medicine technologists use:
Hard skills are abilities a nuclear medicine technologist requires to fulfil their basic responsibilities. They typically develop these skills during education and training, meaning that these may be a hiring manager's minimum expectation. Here are some examples of hard skills:
Analytical skills: Technologists take the data from diagnostic procedures and analyse it. This helps them assist doctors to determine the cause of illness and course of treatment.
Technological skills: These professionals operate many testing devices and computers during their workday. They require good technical skills to understand how to operate the machines and record the resulting data in data management systems.
Physical stamina: Nuclear medicine technologists may spend many hours on their feet travelling between medical departments and conducting tests. This requires a good level of fitness to ensure they remain energised and alert throughout their shift.
Bedside manner: When helping doctors explain procedures and results, these professionals require a good bedside manner. This means showing sympathy to patients and avoiding language that may make them fearful about their health or hesitant to continue with diagnostics and treatment.
Knowledge of radioactive medicine: These professionals require a comprehensive understanding of radioactive medicine. This helps them determine the correct dose to give patients and monitor for signs of harmful side effects.
Soft skills help technologists build more constructive relationships with their colleagues and put patients at ease. Candidates typically develop these skills through experience rather than training or education. Here are some examples:
Communication: Nuclear medicine technologists rely on communication skills to work constructively with doctors and patients. This helps them establish the correct diagnostic tests, communicate results and maintain healthy relationships with their colleagues and patients.
Empathy: When presenting diagnostic information to a patient, technologists may encounter some difficult scenarios regarding their patient's health. Empathy allows them to sympathise with the patient, relay information clearly and employ active listening skills to understand and respond to any queries.
Collaboration: These professionals work closely with specialists and doctors to establish the cause of illness and the proper treatment. Collaboration skills ensure professionals work constructively by delegating workloads fairly, listening to each other's theories and motivating each other to succeed.
Interpersonal skills: Work in healthcare facilities is primarily customer facing. This means technologists are likely to interact with people on a near-constant basis, so good interpersonal skills ensure they remain approachable and friendly to colleagues and patients.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location. Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
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