Medical Assistant vs. Nuclear Medicine Technician: What You Need to Know

A nuclear medicine technologist (NMT) has many of the same skills as an X-ray Technician, a CT Scan Technician and a Medical Imaging Technician but, of all these positions, only an NMT has the credentials to provide cancer patients with radiation treatments, usually under the direction and guidance of a Radiologist (who are usually physicians trained in medical imaging) and Oncologists. NMTs can also do X-rays, provide CT scans and, to boot, PET Scans. Positron Emission Tomography, unlike X-rays, use radioactive substances to obtain medical imaging of the human body

One of the drawbacks of being an NMT is that you will be exposed to more radiation than other healthcare professionals. Some people forget, forget or don’t know, for example, that one CT Scan can be the equivalent of about 1000 individual X-rays. While technicians can generally hide behind lead protected walls, they can still get exposed to residual levels of radiation left behind on tables, equipment and supplies in the room when patients were hit with radiation rays.

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Here are some of the major differences between Nuclear Medicine Technologists/Technicians and MAs:

  • Whereas NMTs are exposed to a lot of radiation (comparatively speaking), MAs are generally exposed to much less — in this regard, NMT is a more dangerous job than MA.
  • NMTs can get paid much more than MAs, even at their basic, start-up level, perhaps because of the hazard pay involved?
  • NMTs usually have a minimum of an associates and have usually undergone a lot of intricate training and instruction. There are also a number of certifications these people can vie for which help them advance in status and in pay.
  • MAs might like the variety of duties that you perform as an NMT; in other words, this job isn’t as monotonous as some of the others on this list.
  • This job is comparable t MAs in that this type of technician is involved in patient care, not just medical imaging, running equipment and gathering information for other more-hands-on healthcare providers. This can be said about NMTs because they help some patients beat cancer though radiotherapy.
  • MAs might appreciate the autonomy NMTs enjoy (answerable only to the Radiologist they report to) and the fact that they have fewer bosses flying over them.
  • NMTs are one of the few professionals (other than Radiologists) that are licensed and qualified to administer radiopharmaceuticals (i.e., drugs with radioactive tracers in them). These help to provide the feedback picked up by PET scans and other medical imaging devices.
  • Unlike MAs NMTs are often licensed and usually certified in a number of different specialties or areas of expertise.
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Article Written by Rachel Dennis

Rachel Dennis works as both a professional writer and health care provider. She has been a licensed health care provider since 1998, with work experience as a medical assistant, certified nursing assistant and emergency medical technician. She has been writing since 1994 and has been published both on-line and in print.

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