With the announcement of the next round of Victorian Department of Health and Human Services Nuclear Medicine Scholarships, RMIT News spoke to program coordinator, Evan Read to find out more.
What is nuclear medicine?
Nuclear medicine is a branch of medical radiations, where radioactivity is used to either diagnose or treat disease.
A number of radioisotopes are commonly used, which can be attached to pharmaceutical or biological molecules to create radiopharmaceuticals.
They are designed to map specific physiological and metabolic processes to help identify disease in a non-invasive manner that can be captured on sophisticated equipment to create medical images.
Nuclear medicine is involved in a number of areas of medicine, including oncology, neurology, endocrinology, orthopaedics, cardiology and gastroenterology, among others. In addition to diagnosis, certain localised and systemic diseases can be treated using targeted radiopharmaceuticals.
What can students expect from the program at RMIT?
The Bachelor of Applied Science (Medical Radiations – Nuclear Medicine) is a three year degree program that involves anatomy and physiology, pathology, chemistry and biochemistry, radiation physics and instrumentation and clinical studies.
Across the three years, students complete 22 weeks of clinical placement in a number of nuclear medicine departments. This gives them a variety of clinical experiences in public, private and rural clinical centres.
What makes this program unique?
The program is great for students who:
- have strong interests in all three areas of science: chemistry, biology and physics;
- want to apply their knowledge in a clinical environment; working in patient care, with sophisticated and cutting-edge imaging technology, and also in a laboratory;
- want to work towards a definite career as a nuclear medicine technologist (now sometimes called molecular imaging technologist) with the same award system as medical imaging and radiation therapy technologists, and excellent job opportunities.
Most class sizes are small, so the education is quite personalised with a better opportunity for substantial individual attention.
The students will also study alongside Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy students to give a broader perspective of other professions they will be interacting with in the clinical environment.
How did the scholarships come about?
Nuclear medicine is a relatively small profession, and despite half the population having a nuclear medicine procedure sometime in their lifetime, very few young people have heard of the profession, much less the career.
The Department of Health recognised this problem and are offering the five $10,000 scholarships to attract the right candidates to this unique patient-care profession.
Who is eligible to apply?
Victorian students who are currently studying Year 12 VCE or who have completed Year 12 not more than two years prior to commencement of the nuclear medicine program (and have not previously commenced a tertiary program) can apply for the scholarships.
Students need to meet the essential prerequisites (either Biology or Chemistry 1 and 2, English 3 and 4 and Maths Methods 3 and 4. Chemistry 3 and 4 are recommended and will be prerequisites for 2017). The full list of criteria is outlined on the RMIT website.
What are some of the career outcomes?
Graduates from the Nuclear Medicine program at RMIT are eligible to enter the Intern program funded by the Department of Health, where they can complete a year of supervised practice in order to become eligible for registration by the national accreditation body - Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Medical Radiation Practice Board of Australia).
Graduates can then practice nuclear medicine and molecular imaging in departments right across Australia in public and private clinical centres, and in some cases, internationally.
Graduates receive the same award schedule as radiation therapy and medical imaging technologists. Historically, the job opportunities for graduates have been excellent, and while the profession is small, most public and moderately-sized private clinical centres have nuclear medicine facilities.
Testimonials from 2014 recipients of the nuclear medicine scholarships
“I find the small class sizes are less intimidating than a huge class of people – you get the help you need and you really get to know the lecturers.”
“Nuclear medicine is not really a well-known field and it encompasses quite a few unique methods so you must do your research and have a passion for patient health.”
“Nuclear medicine is quite dynamic in the sense that every day in the profession can bring something new. It incorporates aspects of chemistry, anatomy and physics as well as a great deal of human interaction.”
“The hands-on labs are fun and lecturers who work in the field provide valuable experience and guidance.”