Bright future for nuclear medicine technologists
SNMTS sponsors most comprehensive profile of professionals regarding job satisfaction, salaries, education, career paths
RESTON, Va. -- The future looks bright for nuclear medicine technologists. Technologists enjoy their jobs, find their salaries near the top of the scale for professions with similar educational requirements, are well educated and remain poised for continuing growth and change. These facts are gleaned from a recent survey sponsored by SNMTS, a scientific organization that promotes continued development and improvement of the art and science of molecular imaging, nuclear medicine and technology.
"The study, 'Nuclear Medicine Technologists in the United States: Findings From a 2005 Survey,' provides the most comprehensive picture of nuclear medicine technologists ever developed and contains information about demographic characteristics, education, employment, career paths and attitudes about the profession," explained SNMTS President D. Scott Holbrook. "By conducting this survey, SNMTS can learn more about the thoughts, opinions and challenges of technologists so its leaders can make more informed decisions and better meet current and future needs," he added. "With this information, we will be able to take the lead in determining how the nuclear medicine technologists of today may broaden their scope to become the imaging specialists or molecular imaging technologists of the future," said Holbrook, who represents nearly 8,000 nuclear medicine technologists who are employed in hospitals, universities, medical clinics and research centers across the United States and abroad.
"More than 2,200 nuclear medicine technologists (certified either by the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board and/or the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists) responded to a 60-question survey concerning multiple aspects of the profession," said Anthony Knight, who chaired the SNMTS Advisory Committee for the survey. In looking at the future, the findings note that 6 out of 10 (60.5 percent) technologists expect to remain in their current positions for the next five years, he said. A majority (53.3 percent) indicated that additional training would be necessary to continue their work, said Knight. Technologists identified a need for training in computed tomography (19.5 percent), PET/CT (37.7 percent), SPECT/CT (13.1 percent), magnetic resonance imaging (3 percent) and mammography/PET (1.2 percent).
Below are some findings from the survey.
- Salaries: The average total salary of full-time technologists (including wages from being "on call") is $70,470. Nuclear medicine technologists working with fusion imaging (such as PET/CT) earn higher salaries than those working in general nuclear medicine. Average total salaries are highest in the West ($82,890) and the Mid-Atlantic region ($71,260); the lowest average salaries are found in the Mountain ($60,690) and Mid-West ($63,210) states.
- Job satisfaction: A majority (53.7 percent) of respondents are very satisfied with their jobs, and nearly 19 out of 20 respondents (94 percent) are very or somewhat satisfied with their jobs.
- Geographical location: The number of certified technologists per states' populations varies greatly, with large numbers in states like Nebraska, South Dakota and West Virginia and the smallest concentration in Oklahoma and Nevada.
- Demographics: The majority of technologists (74.6 percent) are involved in general nuclear medicine practice, while a few (4.6 percent) spend time working with other modalities, including PET, PET/CT and SPECT/CT. The majority of certified technologists work in hospitals or medical centers (54.8 percent), while 15.9 percent work in cardiology specialty centers. The profession is gender diverse compared to most allied health profession, with the majority of active nuclear medicine technologists being women who are in their mid-forties.
- Education: More than 9 out of 10 nuclear medicine technologists indicated they had completed some college education, and nearly a third expect to pursue additional academic education (an acknowledgement of the rapid evolution of nuclear medicine and molecular imaging).
- Certification and licensure: About 70 percent of the respondents indicated that their home states require them to hold a license, pointing to the need to increase the professional standing of the profession in all states. In addition, nuclear medicine technologists are keenly aware of how quickly the profession is changing, indicating that the introduction of new imaging technologies results in changing responsibilities. The report notes some coming trends, including the evolution of medical imaging, the increasing importance of fusion imaging technologies and the shift of nuclear medicine practice toward cardiologists, oncologists and other specialists. The study also provides recommendations for the profession. These recommendations include that technologists must pursue licensure in all states to serve the needs and protect the safety of the public; promote standardized, legislated legal scope of practice for technologists; augment the knowledge base and skill sets to include fusion imaging with the latest technologies; track closely the work of scientists and industry on new imaging technologies and adjust educational programs as needed; and work to increase the number of certified technologists in all states in this country.
Nuclear medicine technologists are highly specialized health care professionals who perform an integral role on the nuclear medicine/molecular imaging team in diagnosing and treating disease, working with physicians, patients, physicists, nuclear pharmacists, computer specialists, nurses, secretaries and other health care professionals. They have direct patient contact; prepare, calibrate and administer radiopharmaceuticals; perform patient imaging procedures (including computer processing); operate imaging, lab and computer instrumentation; and ensure radiation safety.
The Center for Health Workforce Studies at the University of Albany conducted the survey and prepared the 158-page "Nuclear Medicine Technologists in the United States: Findings From a 2005 Survey." Complete survey results are located on SNM's Web site at http://www.snm.org (click on the Research and Data link). The report's executive summary will be published in the December Journal of Nuclear Medicine Technology.
About SNM--Advancing Molecular Imaging and Therapy
SNM is an international scientific and professional organization of more than 16,000 members dedicated to promoting the science, technology and practical applications of molecular and nuclear imaging to diagnose, manage and treat diseases in women, men and children. Founded more than 50 years ago, SNM continues to provide essential resources for health care practitioners and patients; publish the most prominent peer-reviewed resource in the field; sponsor research grants, fellowships and awards; host the premier annual meeting for medical imaging; and train physicians, technologists, scientists, physicists, chemists and radiopharmacists in state-of-the-art imaging procedures and advances. SNM members have introduced--and continue to explore--biological and technological innovations in medicine that noninvasively investigate the molecular basis of diseases, benefiting countless generations of patients.
SNM's Technologist Section is a scientific organization formed with--but operating autonomously from--SNM. SNMTS promotes the continued development and improvement of the art and science of nuclear medicine and technology. SNM is based in Reston, Va.; additional information can be found online at http://www.snm.org.
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