A physician specialising in nuclear medicine will use a wide range of procedures and treatments involving radioactive substances to help treat patients. Medical tests which involve the use of radioactive substances include bone scans, ventilation-perfusion scans and single photon emission computed tomography. Such investigative techniques are painless and can give an early insight into medical conditions. Radioactive methods of testing would be able to identify medical conditions such as bone fractures, tumours and arthritis.

A specialist in nuclear medicine would not only use radioactive methods to diagnose patients, but also to treat them. This would mainly be done through therapy, such as radionuclide therapy. This particular type of treatment would be used to help patients with joint inflammation. This is a specialist branch of medicine in which you will deal with patients face-to-face for much of the time, though there is little need to be on call. You would need to ensure that the amount or radioactive substances used in the diagnosis and treatment of patients was absolutely correct.

Work activities

Typical work activities a specialist in nuclear medicine would need to carry out include:

  • Work in settings such as hospitals, specialist clinics and private practices.
  • Perform tests and therapeutic practices through the use of radioactive substances.
  • Perform tests such as bone scans, myocardial perfusion scans and gallium scans.
  • Diagnose and treat conditions including bone disease, liver disease and thyroid disease.
  • Work with a variety of specialists, including physicists and technologists.
  • Also, use sound waves to help diagnose patients rather than merely using radioactive tests.
  • Perform radioactive therapy or recommend other necessary treatment for patients.
  • Continue to study while you work in order to learn of any advances in the diagnosis and treatment of patients.
  • Put patients at ease when undergoing medical tests and treatment.
  • Amount of radioactive substances used to test and treat is very small and you would need to ensure that this is the case.

Essential skills

  • Good interpersonal skills.
  • Excellent communications skills.
  • Organised and professional manner.
  • Able to work as part of a medical team and as an individual.
  • Able to speak your own opinion on patient well-being and be receptive of others’ insights.
  • Clinical analytical skills and attention to detail.
  • Aptitude for medicine and the sciences.
  • Leadership qualities.
  • Work under stressful conditions.
  • Competent when using computers.