Nuclear Medicine Technologists carry out diagnostic imaging and some treatment procedures in hospitals or private medical clinics. They acquire images that help pinpoint the nature of a disease and how it is affecting the body. Their work also enables doctors to monitor a patient's response to treatment. Some of the main uses of nuclear medicine include:
- Evaluating coronary disease
- Studying how the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys and other organs are functioning
- Determining the location of tumors
- Monitoring the progression of cancer and the results of cancer treatments
- Diagnosing hormonal disorders
Nuclear medicine involves the use of radioactive tracers that concentrate in specific organs when introduced into the patient's bloodstream. Given in small amounts, usually by injection, the tracers expose patients to a very low-level of radiation for only a short time.
As the tracer emits radiation, a special detector called a gamma camera collects data. A computer processes the data and produces images of the organ from different angles. Cross-sectional images can be obtained if required. The images generally appear on a computer monitor, or as a photograph or computer printout.
As part of their professional duty, nuclear medicine technologists:
- Explain the procedures to patients.
- Answer questions as fully as possible.
- Contribute to patient education.
- Prepare the tracer prescribed.
- Ensure that proper radiation handling and protection techniques are followed.
- Administer the tracer.
- Position patients and equipment correctly.
- Perform the required tests.
- Monitor patients during the procedure.
- Comfort patients and provide emotional support.
- Conduct computer analysis to produce diagnostic medical images.
In Nova Scotia you must receive a 4 year degree in Health Sciences to become a Nuclear Medicine Technologist. In Nova Scotia this program is offered at Dalhousie University in Halifax. Upon completion of this degree, you must then write a national certification exam developed by our national Association (Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists). You also have to be a member of this association to work in Canada.