Nuclear Medicine Physician Career Facts

A nuclear medicine physician is a specialist using radionuclide for the diagnosis and treatment of various diseases. Nuclear medicine is a special branch of therapeutics wherein very small doses of radionuclides (radioactive isotopes) are used for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases. In this method, radionuclide combined with drugs form radiopharmaceuticals. These radiopharmaceuticals emit gamma rays and hence act as radiotracers to image a specific internal organ. As a nuclear medicine physician, your main duty is to interpret such scans of nuclear medicine and prescribe treatment for thyroid diseases, heart diseases, cancer and bone pain.

Basic Duties, a Typical Day

Your daily tasks as a nuclear medicine physician will vary from hospital to hospital. However, following are examples of what your work could entail on a typical day:

  • Administer radionuclide to patients and image organs for diagnosis using radio isotopes.
  • Set up the Positron Emission Tomography (PET) or gamma camera in position for imaging the patients.
  • Review the image reports to determine the treatment procedures.
  • Examine and interview patients and record data accurately in the specified format.
  • Direct and instruct technicians of nuclear medicine about the treatment, dosage, positions and projections.
  • Prepare a comprehensive report after evaluating the physiologic, metabolic and molecular conditions of the image reports.
  • Instruct and monitor the preparations of the radionuclide, its administration and disposition.
  • Use radionuclide for studying the samples of urine and blood and dilute studies, radioimmunoassay and hematological studies.
  • Manage the nuclear medicine services and coordinate with other health care services.
  • Supervise and ensure the quality and safety standards of nuclear medicinal procedures.

Work Hours/Schedule

The work hours of a nuclear medicine physician are a standard 40 hours a week. There is no need for emergency treatment in this field of health care service. Thus, you will likely be working only during usual business hours.

Wages/Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, for 2009, the median salary of a nuclear medicine physician is $263,906. Almost 25 percent of nuclear medicine physicians earn a salary of about $325,730 annually.

Opportunities for Advancement

Nuclear medicine gives ample opportunities to do research in this highly specialized field. Starting at the grassroots level, you can work your way up to the post of a department head or conduct sponsored research on behalf of pharmaceutical companies.

Type of Nuclear Physician Jobs

Most of these physicians work for hospitals, clinics and health care service centers either as consultant physicians or therapists. A few nuclear medicine physicians also work independently as consultants for the diagnosis and prevention of highly invasive or complex disease conditions.

Important Information

Since the nuclear medicine procedures are not invasive, they are increasingly being used to diagnose kidney functions, respiratory problems, gall bladder inflammation, heart function, the spread of carcinoma cells, bowel bleeding and many more diseases. Radioactive therapies are also gaining more popularity especially for hyperthyroidism, lymphatic cancer and blood disorders. Thus, the demand for nuclear medicine physicians is bound to increase.