Nuclear pharmacy is a highly specialized field. Very few colleges of pharmacy offer the specialized training required to meet the requirements of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, however, certificate training programs are available.
In most cases nuclear pharmacists do not hold a special license to practice. After meeting the training and experience requirements, a pharmacist must be listed as an “authorized user” of radioactive materials on the pharmacy or hospital’s radioactive materials license. This license is issued by either the Nuclear Regulatory Commission or a state’s radiological health division. Currently there is one state which is an exception. The state of Florida licenses nuclear pharmacists through the Board of Pharmacy. Pharmacists hold a radiopharmacist license in addition to their traditional license (additional CE in the field of nuclear medicine is required also). The Florida Board of Pharmacy uses the same training and experience guidelines set by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; the requirements are described below.
Training and Experience Requirements
1. Classroom training in basic radioisotope handling techniques specifically applicable to the use of unsealed sources is required (~200 hours). The training should consist of lectures and laboratory sessions in the following areas:
- Radiation physics and instrumentation
- Radiation protection
- Mathematics of radioactivity
- Radiation biology
- Radiopharmaceutical chemistry
2. Supervised experience in handling unsealed radioactive material under a qualified instructor is also required (~500 hours). This experience should cover the type and quantities of by-product material requested in the application and includes the following:
- Ordering, receiving, surveying, and unpackaging radioactive materials safely.
- Calibration of dose calibrators, scintillation detectors, and survey meters
- Calculation, preparation, and calibration of patient doses including the proper use of syringe shield.
There are several ways a pharmacist can receive nuclear training. Completion of nuclear training is not a prerequisite for hiring; most nuclear pharmacy companies will pay for the training programs. Some program providers are listed below:
College of Pharmacy Programs
- University of Arkansas
- University of New Mexico
- University of Oklahoma
- University of Tennessee
- Purdue University