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What Does a Radiopharmacist Do?

By Benjamin Arie
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A radiopharmacist is a healthcare professional who is considered an expert in cancer medications. Like other types of pharmacists, these workers formulate and distribute medicine for patients. Radiopharmacists deal with radioactive compounds, and must follow strict medical and government guidelines.

Many of the drugs and medications dispensed by radiopharmacists are specifically intended to treat malignant tumors. Some medications that radiopharmacists deal with are also used to detect and diagnose illnesses. The radioactive nature of these materials helps physicians to analyze tissues and organs using medical imaging devices.

A radiopharmacist must have a thorough understanding of which radioactive medicines are best for each particular test or treatment. These professionals must also instruct patients in the safe use of this medication. Cancer patients often have questions and concerns regarding the effects of radioactive treatment. Radiopharmacists work with physicians to ensure that users understand how different medications affect the body.

Experts in this profession also typically track and control a variety of radioactive compounds. Pharmacists must ensure that only authorized personnel have access to these materials. Some medications used by radiopharmacists can degrade or cause damage if they are not stored correctly. Experts must monitor these items to keep them stable and secure.

The majority of pharmacists work a standard 40-hour work week, although some work part time. Radiopharmacists are usually employed by hospitals or community pharmacies. Some professionals work for medical laboratories or pharmaceutical companies, and assist with the development and testing of new drugs.

Individuals who wish to become radiopharmacists typically must hold a Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm-D) degree. Students must first complete two years of general study, which includes classes such as chemistry and biology. An additional four years of advanced study is also required, during which trainees learn about drug interactions and pharmacy procedures. Successful workers in this profession must have strong communication and problem solving skills, in addition to understanding complex medical interactions.

Training for a radiopharmacist does not end after college. Many students enter a pharmaceutical residency program for several years before joining the job market. This program allows individuals to gain hands-on experience under the supervision of a senior health professional.

All pharmacists in the United States must pass the North American Pharmacist Licensure Exam (NAPLEX) before they can dispense medication. A person must pass several tests regarding healthcare laws and procedures in order to be certified as a radiopharmacist. Additionally, most U.S. states require pharmacists to pass a background check and meet minimum age requirements.

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