Nuclear medicine enters the ‘supertech’ realm

May 23, 2006

A shortage of nuclear medicine physicians and the growing responsibilities of nuclear medicine technologists has spurred the Society of Nuclear Medicine to offer seed money for institutions to develop curriculum suitable for creating supertechs.

A shortage of nuclear medicine physicians and the growing responsibilities of nuclear medicine technologists has spurred the Society of Nuclear Medicine to offer seed money for institutions to develop curriculum suitable for creating supertechs.

The SNM Technologist Section is offering $40,000 in grants for schools to create a master's degree program aimed at expanding the education of nuclear medicine technologists.

"Nuclear medicine technologists now work with more independence and take more responsibility because of physician shortages," said Martha W. Pickett, a certified nuclear medicine technologist and chair of the advanced practice task force for the SNMTS.

Nuclear medicine physicians often need to cover more than one patient or location at a given time. Having someone trained to perform duties that run the gamut from obtaining informed consent to preparing patients to injecting drugs, which techs now do under supervision, can be extremely helpful, said Pickett, who is also division director of the nuclear medicine imaging sciences program at the University of Arkansas.

These and several other trends, including increased workforce diversity and the growing sway of molecular and fusion imaging, have opened a window of opportunity for technologists.

"Physicians today need technologists to perform the same kind of work nurses or physician assistants do," said SNMTS president Valerie R. Cronin.

According to a draft of the Nuclear Medicine Practitioner Competency Analysis to be presented for approval at the 2006 SNM meeting in June, procedures that the Nuclear Medicine Practitioner will be able to perform include:

  • physical exams;

  • record patient history relevant to diagnostic and therapeutic testing;

  • independently perform exercise and pharmacologic cardiac stress testing;

  • administer radiopharmaceuticals for sentinel node imaging and surgical evaluation;

  • order interventional pharmaceuticals as indicated by patient profile and diagnostic or therapeutic procedure as allowable by state and federal statutes; and

  • evaluate images and provide a preliminary diagnosis to the nuclear medicine physician or radiologist.

Duties techs currently perform include:

  • obtain patient's medical history and clear or disallow them for the procedure;

  • assist physician in cardiac stress testing when performed in conjunction with nuclear medicine procedures;

  • administer interventional drugs, radiopharmaceuticals; and

  • review images to assure correct information is supplied.

The SNMTS Professional Development and Education Fund offers grant money, consisting of two 12-month packets worth $20,000 each. Funds should help universities, colleges, and other institutions launch master's degree-level programs that provide techs with skills matching their current roles in clinical practice. Several corporations have also sponsored these grants.

For more information from the Diagnostic Imaging archives:

Don't overlook PET technologists

Demand for techs soars, salaries follow

Plan for growth when establishing a PET center