Nuclear pharmacy is one of the pharmacy specialties that is separated not by its area of practice, but rather by the medications one works with on a daily basis.
As the name implies, the nuclear pharmacist is responsible for preparing radioactive materials used in medical atments. Pharmacists in this area aim to safely use radioactive drugs for both the diagnosis and treatment of disease.
Because the nuclear pharmacist handles potentially dangerous materials, extensive training is required in order to work in this area. Pharmacy schools begin the training for work in this specialty, but completion of pharmacy school is not enough for employment as a nuclear pharmacist. Additional training includes:
- 200 hours of training in the handling of radioisotopes. The training, including laboratory time, should include instruction in radiation physics, radiation protection, mathematics of radioactivity, radiation biology, and radiopharmaceutical chemistry.
- 500 hours of experience handling unsealed radioactive materials under supervision. This instruction should include ordering, receiving, examining, and unpacking radioactive materials. Additionally, these hours should include training in the use of dose calibrators, scintillation detectors, and survey meters. Finally, the nuclear pharmacist trainee will gain experience in the calculation, preparation, and calibration of patient medication dosages while using a syringe shield.
Because nuclear pharmacists do not typically interact with patients or customers, this may be a good fit for individuals who have not been commended on their communication and interpersonal skills. These interactions are minimized due to the stringent work environment that nuclear pharmacists must work in.
For those concerned with the potential radiation hazards in this field, one should recognize that, with proper precautions, the radiation exposure is minimized. This is accomplished through the use of the protective materials found in the specialized syringes, gloves, and shielding devices used by the nuclear pharmacist.
Nuclear pharmacy is a unique area of pharmacy practice, in which the specialty is defined not by the work environment but rather by the medications worked with. This is also a unique area of pharmacy practice in that patient and customer interaction is negligible.