Research, prepare, and dispense nuclear-based medicine.
What does a Nuclear Pharmacist do?
As a Nuclear Pharmacist (also known as a Radiopharmacist), you work in the field of nuclear medicine—preparing, dispensing, and researching radioactive pharmaceuticals. The development of nuclear medicine as a recognized specialty came about in the early 1970’s. Nuclear pharmacy closely followed, and is one of six recognized certifiable concentrations of pharmacy.
As a Nuclear Pharmacist, you dispense radioactive material (in liquid or capsule form and weighed in “millicurie activity units”) to the nuclear medicine department of a hospital or clinic, where it is administered to the patient. The radioactive material you dispense when you’re a Nuclear Pharmacist is used primarily for molecular imaging. A device called a gamma camera detects emissions given off by the radioactive material in the body (often administered by syringe), creating an image that can be used for treatment and diagnostic purposes. A common example of this is the procedure known as MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging).
Most of the radiopharmaceuticals you dispense come in a kit with all the necessary materials for preparation. However, it doesn’t include the radioactive isotope, which you add later to create the final product. After you’ve performed quality control verification on it, the material is ready for dispensing. Needless to say, you have to have protection. So the radioactive material in a nuclear pharmacy is stored in lead containers, and the compounding is done behind leaded glass in order to protect you from the radiation.
Aside from preparing and dispensing radioactive material, you may participate in clinical research, train colleagues or students in the use of radiopharmaceuticals, prepare reports for regulatory agencies, or consult with Doctors to review the effectiveness of certain treatments.
Radiopharmacy is a unique—though not yet widespread—specialty. As a Nuclear Pharmacist, you hold a vital position because you’re on the cutting edge of pharmaceutical and medical technology.