Radiologic, Nuclear Medicine Techs’ Scopes of Practice Set to Grow

November 28, 2011

CHICAGO - Fusion may be a good thing for restaurants and the Ford Motor Company, but it’s among the factors making life harder for radiologic technicians and nuclear-medicine experts.

CHICAGO - Fusion may be a good thing for restaurants and the Ford Motor Company, but it’s among the factors making life harder for radiologic technologists and nuclear-medicine experts.

That’s according to an expert panel at RSNA 2011, which tackled the topic of radiology scope of practice on Monday afternoon.

Donna Thaler Long, MSM, RT, Ball State University’s radiography program director and president-elect of the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT), described technological fusion of imaging modalities as among the main culprits complicating the rad-tech’s existence.

Two scanners acting as one – think PET/CT, MR/PET, MR/SPECT, Cardiac CT/SPECT, ultrasound/CT, and radiation therapy combined with CT – has far-reaching implications, particular in regulation to education, Long said.

On the regulatory side, some U.S. states aren’t keeping pace, she said, considering technologists through the lens of the machine he or she operates.

“PET/CT is a problem in a lot of states,” she said. “Some states are specific about who can do the nuclear medicine part and who can do the CT part. You can’t expect two people working every imager.”

Perhaps more pressing, though, is the impact on training, she said. There’s simply a lot more to learn to meet the ASRT standard of “individually prepared and competent,” and fusion shows no signs of slowing down, she added.

The rise of molecular imaging adds to the challenge, she said.

“We’ve got a little bit of it in our curriculum, but it’s going to explode,” she said. “Fusion imaging and molecular imaging are the future, and there’s going to be a huge gap [on the education front].”

Those gaps include the need to understand anatomy and physiology at a cellular level, imaging agents, and merging modalities, among others, she said. Given the constant growth of the scope of learning necessary to performing as a radiologic technologist, Long foresees a four-year degree as a basic educational requirement in the future.

The same may soon be true for nuclear-medicine technologists, added Lynne Roy, MBA, MS, director of imaging at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The Society of Nuclear Technologists says that by 2015, nuclear medicine technologists should have a bachelor of science. The curriculum would involve the current requirements plus immunology, molecular biology, medical terminology, health economics, CT physics and radiation, cross-sectional anatomy, and magnetic resonance imaging fundamentals.

“You can’t teach all this in two years,” she said.

Changes are indeed afoot, Long added.

“It’s scary to think, ‘I’m going to have to learn a number of other things if I’m going to continue to practice. But it’s coming.”