Nuclear Medicine Career Guide: Qualifications, Job Description & Career ProspectsJanuary 6, 2014
Physicians that specialize in nuclear medicine make use of a wide array of innovative techniques in the diagnosis and treatment of pathologic, molecular, physiologic and metabolic disorders. Two of the most common diseases that are detected through nuclear medicine include cancer and artery disease. In fact, this is one of the most predominant ways in which cancers can be staged and treatment can be assessed.
In the field of nuclear medicine, the most common form of diagnostic method is molecular imaging, but anatomic imaging such as CT scans and PET are also often used. Certain radioactive molecules can also be used as a treatment method for conditions such as hyperthyroidism and certain types of cancers and also as a way to relieve pain caused by cancer. Physicians trained in nuclear medicine are the ones that would recommend this type of treatment. They are also the ones who would administer it.
Some of the job functions of a nuclear medicine physician include:
- Setting up the gamma or PET cameras for imaging purposes
- Imaging patients’ organs for diagnostic purposes
- Administering radionuclide
- Examining and assessing image reports in order to determine a safe and effective treatment plan
- Monitoring radionuclide preparation and administration
- Studying urine samples
Places of Work
Nuclear medicine physicians typically work as consultants or sometimes therapists in hospitals, clinics or health care service centres. Some also choose to work independently as consultants. While this has a higher earning potential, it is also a much more competitive sector.
Other job options include working as a professor teaching medical students about the various techniques involved in nuclear medicine or working at research institutions exploring ways to advance the field of nuclear medicine.
Irrespective of the sector they choose to work in, nuclear medicine physician typically put in about commonly 40 hours of work a week. Getting called for emergency treatments or interventions in this field is very rare.
To become a nuclear medicine physician you must first complete 4 years of a medical school course. From there, you will need to complete a 2 to 5 year residency program. During the residency you will have to complete a clinical rotation where you will learn about using radiation therapy in varied ways in the diagnosis of a broad range of conditions. Most residency programs require 1 to 2 years of internal medicine training, followed by 2 to 3 years of nuclear medicine training.
There is huge potential for physicians who specialise in nuclear medicine and this is increasing every day. One of the reasons for this is the growing preference for using non-invasive diagnostics and procedures in the diagnosis of common health issues ranging from respiratory problems and heart functioning to kidney function and gall bladder inflammation and bowel bleeding. With radioactive therapies also becoming the preferred choice for treating diseases such as hyperthyroidism, blood disorders, lymphatic cancer and others, this is the career of the future in the medical field.