A radio-nuclear pharmacy technician is the paraprofessional responsible for compliance with all regulations covering radiopharmaceuticals and their respective services.
A large part of their job will include procurement of radiopharmaceuticals for dispensation, compounding the drugs as needed to fill prescriptions and the other technical aspects of the trade.
Salary ranges for radio-nuclear pharmacy technicians run from $20,000 per year in rural areas, to upwards of $40,000 per year in some cities, with extensive experience.
In general, the more you know - and the more certifications you have, the wider the range of job openings for you, along with higher pay, with the highest pay going to hospital pharmacy technicians who handle IV drug mixtures and chemotherapy drugs.
Other venues where pharmacy technicians work include research facilities, nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and drugs stores.
The typical training program involves a two semester course at the community college level, and focuses on memorizing drug names, their interactions, and procedures for compounding them.
A strong emphasis on radiopharmaceutical transportation, safety and disposal procedures is part of the radio-nuclear pharmacy technician's coursework. As additional certifications are added, more coursework is often necessary.
The position requires a decent technical memory, and the ability to learn on the job.
It differs from a full on pharmacist in that the technician does not actually make drug recommendations or write prescriptions, they merely fill out existing prescriptions and do so safely.
Customer service skills are important, and will require that the successful radio-nuclear pharmacy technician be able to handle medical information in a way that's clear, and preserve patient confidentiality.
Once the prescription is filled out, it's checked and verified by a pharmacist, and then delivered to the patient.
The radio-nuclear pharmacy technician is expected to be able to read patient medical data and see obvious red flags, but is not expected to be able to find every possible drug interaction.
Depending on where the technician is employed, they may also be involved in research and development programs, including monitoring patients with new radiopharmaceuticals, handling quality control issues, and tabulating data for later analysis.
A willingness to be methodical, to not rush, and to think on ones feet is important; when dealing with compounding mixtures, a simple error can cause a significant injury, even death. This becomes even more of an issue when dealing with radiopharmaceuticals.
At the counter at a pharmacy, the radio-nuclear pharmacy technician screens patient requests, gets their health information and personal data, confirms that the prescription is legitimate, and tracks insurance coverage and makes sure that their address and demographic data is correct.
On a typical workday, a nuclear pharmacy technician's duties involve checking for prescriptions that were called in overnight, filling those prescriptions, labeling them, entering them into the computer to track inventory levels.
It is part of their job description to assess inventory levels and order new materials for the following workday.
The job involves filing, being able to move boxes and use a step ladder.
In most cases, the environment will be climate controlled, and computer literacy and basic keyboarding skills are needed to do the work.
There are a number of certifications offered by the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board, which administers a series of national certification exams for all pharmacy technician positions, including those dealing with nuclear medicine.
This organization is trying to expand the range of technical staff in the pharmacy field, expanding the range of roles that can be done by non-pharmacists, without state licensing requirements.
Many of these programs include hands on and laboratory practice sessions, and education in virtually every aspect of pharmacy training, from sterility and cleanliness requirements to drug interactions and dosages.
Nuclear pharmacy technician is a comparatively new field, and most states do not have adequate regulations on of the requirements needed, or rather, they have standards, many of which are more lax than the standards set by the Pharmacy Technicians Certification Boards.
Beyond the certification administration done by the PTCB, each state has its own Pharmacy Board, which are starting to cover pharmacy technicians as a profession, much as they govern licensing and practicing pharmacists.
Within this field, the number of nuclear certified professionals is quite low, less than 1% of pharmacists are certified to work safely with radiological compounds, and the percentage of pharmacy technicians who do so is considerably lower.
To meet the growing demand, organizations such as the Academy of Pharmacy Practice Management approved guidelines for widening the base of technicians and pharmacists who are radiopharmaceutical certified.
This standard was adopted and incorporated into nuclear pharmaceutical training courses, though the gray area between the course work and state by state regulation of nuclear medicine is still being explored.
If you're interested in becoming a nuclear pharmacy technician, it's best to get a non-nuclear certification first, and some experience in the field.
Then, look into the local state regulations on radiopharmaceuticals and nuclear medicine, see if there's a job market that will pay more for this level of expertise, and look for coursework that will get you state certified.
Understand that while being a nuclear pharmacy technician can pay more, and the demand for pharmacy technicians is high, the percentage of pharmacy practices that handle nuclear medicine is still fairly low.
There is evidence indicating that this will change in the next five to eight years, as radiopharmaceuticals take a wider role in medication.
The other factor in going for this certification is that pharmacy technician is, in many cases, an apprenticeship program before going to school to become a doctor of pharmacy.
Nuclear certification can help you get into a pharmacy program, and may open up other careers in pharmacy work for you, on the research and development side of drug development.
Here is an interesting interview with a Radio-Nuclear Pharmacist, which explains in more detail what she does and how important it is:
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