Radiopharmacists are professionals who prepare pharmaceutical drugs with compounds of radioactive molecules. They are the ones who safely supply and manage the drugs, either to be used in therapeutic or diagnostic purposes. But that’s not all it is to this job, so what do they really do?
Radiopharmacy, also known as nuclear pharmacy, is a subspecialty within the pharmacy profession. Like many other pharmaceutical jobs, they aim to improve patient’s condition through the use of pills and doses. However, radiopharmacy dispenses a very peculiar type of medicine, radioactive drugs, that goes beyond the scope of practice in traditional hospital facilities.
What is a Radiopharmacist
It is a known fact that anything remotely related to radioactive substances are dangerous, but thanks to the presence of a radiopharmacist, managing and distributing the drugs, all procedures are safe. Normally, a radiopharmacist would be working in a hospital, either NHS or private and industrial settings. They are involved in researching the usage of radiopharmaceuticals, how they interact with other medications or methods to improve their performance.
Radio Pharmacists scope of practice
A radiopharmacist is a qualified and registered pharmacist, and within the work of nuclear medicine, they distribute the drugs to perform tests and treatments. It is a part of their job to ensure these radiopharmaceuticals are up to standard, that they are safe to use and the dosage is correct. Specifically in nuclear medicine, it is crucial that quality assurance and quality control is strictly monitored. On a daily basis, a radiopharmacist’s task consist of:
- Prepare and label radiopharmaceuticals
- Regularly check on materials, storage of facilities and equipment
- Making sure patients are fully prepared for any radiopharmaceutical procedure
Academically, a radiopharmacist needs to have a working knowledge of the radiopharmaceutical sciences and radiation physics. They also need to know how to handle these radioactive substances and since these radiopharmaceuticals are injected into patients, they need to prepare substances under aseptic conditions. Also, techniques like chromatography, gel filtration and electrophoresis, which are extremely helpful for quality control and research purposes are something a radiopharmacist needs to have.
A radiopharmacist’s quality
Since they are handling a quite dangerous medicine, radiopharmacy is a highly regulated profession. A radiopharmacist must regularly update their knowledge to always be well- informed and aware of any legal requirements and proper procedures in order to ensure the safety of the products and patients. Therefore, a radiopharmacist needs to be:
- Extremely detailed and careful
- Adaptive and excellent in critical thinking
- Keen to learning
- Great interpersonal skills
Working with medicines that have a dual nature like radiopharmaceuticals, nuclear pharmacists also need to be excellent in pharmaceutical sciences, such as microbiology, chemistry, physiology/pharmacology and radiation physics, too.
Starting your career is your interest in maths, chemistry and physics is a great beginning for a radiopharmacist. But to become a qualified radiopharmacist, there are 2 ways.
1. Medicine Control Agency
Under this institution, you can get a Production Manager or a Quality Control Manager qualifications, however one would work more in the field of clinical science or clinical tech, but in general, training methods and considerations are the same.
2. Section 10 exemption
For this route, you must first finish a required 4- year degree and go on to another year of postgraduate to be eligible in the professional circle. During this time, you will apply your practice at a hospital or pursue post-qualification diplomas in clinical or pharmaceutical technology.
A medical profession, yet radiopharmacy is in dire need for staff. In France, there are only 250 radiopharmacy, so they are definitely not a competitive profession. According to the BLS, this career is going to experience a job growth of 3% between the years 2019 and 2029, a slow but steady rise. Also, on average, annually, a radiopharmacist makes about $120,658, quite a paycheck for such a free-stress profession.
Radiopharmaceutical requires lots of personal skills, but it is very fruitful and rewarding. It has many similarities with pharmacy technician yet still has an uniqueness of its own.