Public Release: 

Medical, technological advances prompt updating of nuclear medicine technologists' scope of practice

SNM technologist section's professional definition reflects changes as technology advances, molecular imaging evolves; new document published in September Journal of Nuclear Medicine Technology

Society of Nuclear Medicine

RESTON, Va.--To meet the changing needs of health care, the SNM Technologist Section recently revised its "Scope of Practice for the Nuclear Medicine Technologist 2007." The updated, forward-looking scope--with its primary focus on public protection and acknowledgement of the evolving nature of technology and science--clearly defines a technologist's procedures, actions and processes in nuclear medicine and molecular imaging.

"Scope of practice is a fluid concept. It changes as knowledge and technology advance and medical imaging evolves," said SNMTS President David Gilmore, who speaks for more than 8,000 nuclear medicine technologist members. "The dynamic work of nuclear medicine technologists has expanded into the rapidly emerging--potentially revolutionizing--field of molecular imaging. New tools are being made available as instrumentation, radiopharmaceuticals and techniques rapidly progress," he added. "Nuclear medicine technologists must possess the knowledge, skill and ability to perform their duties. Our scope of practice recognizes changes in medicine and technology and promotes better consumer care and competent providers," added Gilmore, who is the program director for the school of nuclear medicine technology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, an affiliate of Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass.

"The scope of practice for nuclear medicine technologists now includes performing computed tomography (CT) scans and administering contrast (oral and IV)--with appropriate education--as well as in-vitro testing (blood glucose testing and urine pregnancy testing) and transmission imaging," noted Gilmore. The scope includes parameters for patient care, quality control, diagnostic procedures, radiopharmaceuticals, radionuclide therapy and radiation safety. This document will receive regular review for consistency with current knowledge and practice, said Gilmore, and aid states in defining licensure and hospitals and clinics in approving job descriptions. The updated scope of practice appears in the September Journal of Nuclear Medicine Technology, published by SNM, the world's largest society for nuclear medicine and molecular imaging professionals.

"Our scope of practice is a generic description of the practice of nuclear medicine technology and includes information about the profession and its current and future status," explained Cindi Luckett-Gilbert, chair of the SNMTS special task force to revise the scope of practice. "It includes parameters to define the profession, such as federal and state regulations, institutional regulations and professional standards," she added. "The biggest change to the scope of practice was to include performing CT scans and administering contrast," said Luckett-Gilbert. "Since many of the state-of-the-art nuclear medicine cameras--as well as the positron emission tomography (PET) scanners--have CT scanners attached to them, performing CT scans becomes one of the nuclear medicine technologist's tasks," added the supervisor of PET/CT imaging for Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte, N.C.

There are more than 21,000 certified nuclear medicine technologists in this country, and the field is expected to continue to grow. These technologists are highly specialized health care professionals and are employed in hospitals, universities, medical clinics and research centers across the United States and abroad. They are specially trained to operate the sophisticated systems and computers used for diagnosis in nuclear medicine and coordinate with other members of a health care team, including doctors, patients, physicists, nuclear pharmacists, computer specialists and nurses.

The SNMTS scope of practice, updated from a 2001 version, is not intended to modify or alter existing tort law; rather, it should serve as a concise outline of nuclear medicine technologist skills and responsibilities, said Gilmore All tasks within the scope are subject to federal, state and institutional regulations. The SNMTS scope of practice was completed and approved by SNM's board of directors and the SNMTS Executive Board this past June.

The Technologist Section also has professional practice guidelines that include task-related items that are complementary to the scope. To view "Scope of Practice for the Nuclear Medicine Technologist 2007," please visit SNM's Web site at http://www.snm.org (in the red box, click on Technologists).

SNMTS members who developed the revised scope, besides Gilmore and Luckett-Gilbert, include Giuliana Arcovio of Boston, Mass.; Michelle Beauvais of Highland, Mich.; Scott Holbrook of Coeburn, Va.; Art Hall of Pearland, Texas; Kent Hutchings of Byron, Calf.; Lyn Mehlberg of Milwaukee, Wis.; Robert Pagnanelli of Hillsborough, N.C.; David Perry of St. Louis, Mo.; and George Segall of Palo Alto, Calif.

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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 journal in the field (The Journal of Nuclear Medicine); host the premier annual meeting for medical imaging; sponsor research grants, fellowships and awards; 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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