Nuclear medicine technologists prepare, administer and measure radioactive isotopes (similar atoms) in therapeutic, diagnostic and tracer studies. They gather information on patients’ illnesses and medical history to guide the choice of diagnostic procedures for therapy.
They explain test procedures and safety precautions to the patients and provide them with assistance during the procedures. They administer radiopharmaceuticals or radiation to detect or treat diseases, using radioisotope equipment, under the direction of a physician, and calculate, measure and record radiation dosage or radiopharmaceuticals received, used and disposed, using the computer and following the physician's prescription. They detect and map the radiopharmaceuticals in the patients' bodies, using a camera to produce photographic computer images. They measure glandular activity, blood volume, red cell survival, or radioactivity of a patient, using scanners, Geiger counters, scintillometers or other laboratory equipment.
Other tasks are to position radiation fields, radiation beams, and patients to allow for the most effective treatment of the patient's disease, using the computer, and to add radioactive substances to biological specimens, such as blood, urine or faeces, to determine therapeutic drug or hormone levels.
Nuclear medicine technologists produce a computer-generated or film image for interpretation by a physician, process cardiac function studies, using a computer, and record and process the results of the procedures.
Other tasks are to prepare stock radiopharmaceuticals, adhering to safety standards that minimise radiation exposure to workers and patients, maintain and calibrate radioisotope and laboratory equipment, and make sure that legal requirements concerning the handling and disposing of radioactive materials are met.
They assign workers to prepare radiopharmaceuticals, perform nuclear medicine studies and conduct laboratory tests. They are equipped to write computer protocols for new and revised procedures and they train departmental workers in the overall operation of the equipment. They need to perform quality checks on laboratory equipment or camera, and dispose of radioactive materials and store radiopharmaceuticals, following radiation safety procedures.
They generally work indoors, in well-equipped laboratories, clinics and hospitals, usually working with state-of-the-art machinery and equipment.
Working conditions are very good and professional attitudes prevail.
Schooling & School Subjects
National Senior Certificate meeting the requirements for a degree or diploma course.
Each institution has its own entry requirements.
There are two main routes to qualification as a nuclear medicine technologist:
One is via a BSc in Clinical Technology with specialisation in Nuclear Medicine. This is combined with training based upon formal practical experience in nuclear medicine, covering the competencies listed in the Training Prospectus for Nuclear Medicine. This would take four years (part-time degree).
Another route is to take a BSc in Radiography, which takes three years, and then specialise in Nuclear Medicine, after first qualifying as a Radiographer.
Practical experience can be obtained by working in a nuclear medicine department with the option of taking a postgraduate qualification, an additional minimum of two years.
Degree: BSc . This can be followed by a BSc Hons.
Diploma: NDip: Diagnostic / Nuclear Medicine / Therapy. This 3 year diploma can be followed by a BTech degree after two additional years -
these courses are available at some universites of technology.
The Health Professionals Council of South Africa and the National Department of Health strictly control the training, in line with international requirements.
Postgraduate: MSc Nuclear Medicine.
Nuclear medicine technologists can advance to supervisory positions such as chief technologist or department administrator. Some technologists advance through specialisation, such as nuclear cardiology, or move on to work in research laboratories. Those technologists with advanced degrees may become teachers in nuclear medicine technology programmes.
• Department of Health
• local authorities
• private radiological practices
South African Society of Nuclear Medicine (SASNM)
Tel: (021) 938-6552 Fax: (021) 938-6553
Society of Radiographers (SORSA)
Pinelands Business Park
New Mill Road
P O Box 505
Howard Place, 7450
Tel: (021) 531-1231 Fax: (021) 531-1233