There are thousands of potential career paths out there for anyone with an interest in the sciences. If science is your passion, you could be anything you like, from a plastic surgeon to an analytical chemist. The only limit is your motivation to study and your willingness to enroll on a master of science in nursing or similar. So what career options are available to you if you have a strong interest in health sciences and computer technology?
Nuclear medicine is probably not at the top of anyone’s career bucket list if they have an aptitude for science and computers. In fact, it would be fair to say that most people probably do not have a clue what a nuclear medicine practitioner even does.
How Does Nuclear Medicine Work?
If you have had various diagnostic tests in hospital, you may have visited the nuclear medicine department at some point. Nuclear medicine uses radioactive tracers to diagnose or treat disease. Rather than simply providing an image of the body, nuclear medicine aims to show how a particular body system functions.
A Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan is a good example of nuclear medicine in action. PET scans use radioactive tracers contained within a special dye. The tracers are injected into a vein and then monitored as they move through the body. This produces a detailed 3D image. Doctors use PET scans to determine how far cancer has spread or if it has recurred. PET scans can also be used to diagnose conditions such as epilepsy and dementia.
The Role of a Nuclear Medicine Technologist
Nuclear medicine technologists may work in different departments, so the role will vary, but you will need strong communication and interpersonal skills to work with patients, some of whom may be very sick. Nuclear medicine technologists also have to be comfortable working with computers and other tech equipment, since these are used to produce and process images.
Training to be a Nuclear Medicine Technologist
The two main routes into a career in nuclear medicine are as follows. You could study for a BSc in clinical technology and specialize in nuclear medicine, followed up with practical training within a nuclear medicine department. Alternatively, you could study for a BSc in radiography and then specialize in nuclear medicine. If you already have a masters of science in nursing, you will have to study for a bridging qualification in nuclear medicine together with in-service training.
Career Advancement Opportunities
As with any career in the health professions, building on your skills and knowledge is the key to advancement. It is not enough to obtain a qualification in your chosen field and then practice for years. If you want to move up the career ladder into more senior management roles, you will need to stay up to date with the latest technological advancements, which involves attending conferences or working in industry and educational establishments.
Nuclear medicine is not a career that suits everyone, but if it appeals to you, talk to people working within the profession to find out the inside story.