SNMMI's Aaron Scott Discusses How the NMAA Program Advances the Nuclear Medicine Technologist's Career

I would like to share with you firsthand what it's like to be a Nuclear Medicine Advanced Associate (NMAA).

The NMAA is the first master’s-level degree offered in the field of nuclear medicine. Currently offered by a consortium of several universities formed by the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences that includes University of Missouri at Columbia, Georgia Regents University and Saint Louis University, the distance-learning program provides professionals already working in the field with an opportunity for advancement. Also of note is that the program is the second educational track of the Master of Imaging Science (MIS) degree to be offered by UAMS.

Some of my professional peers have asked whether or not there is a need for this physician extender. In answer, I explain that for every patient who has had to wait for a physician or mid-level practitioner to show up to perform a nuclear stress test, an NMAA could have made a difference. Under physician supervision, the NMAA is qualified to perform patient assessment, patient management, review of clinical information and selected nuclear medicine procedures, among other responsibilities beyond the scope of traditional technologist duties. As with the growing number of physician assistants and nurse practitioners in healthcare, the NMAA can help expedite patient care.

Now that American healthcare operates as an evidence-based, rather than a “fee for service”-based model, wait times are crucial for increased reimbursement. If patients experience extended wait times because no one is available to perform a stress test, administer a treatment dose or order additional tests needed to verify what is seen in the images, our consumers will be unhappy and reimbursement will decrease.

In the competitive and highly educated healthcare industry, the NMAA degree now provides nuclear medicine technologists with an opportunity to help meet the demand for advanced practitioners in imaging specialties.

The duties of the NMAA may include those of the Nuclear Medicine Technologist, but with added responsibilities specific to the NMAA’s advanced education and training. Accordingly, by implication, the NMAA scope of practice incorporates all duties also identified in the Nuclear Medicine Technologist scope of practice. As an NMAA, I have completed advanced coursework in the NMAA curriculum that includes, but is not limited to: patient care, clinical nuclear medicine, radionuclide therapy, nuclear cardiology, interpersonal and communication skills, practice-based decision making, professionalism, systems-based practice, patient assessment, pathophysiology, pharmacology, contrast media, radiation biology and radiation safety.

Since undertaking this additional degree program, I've been asked, "Why bother going to school for something you're already doing?" My answer is that this degree is a differentiator. Not only will it make a difference when I'm competing for positions, now I can be recognized and get paid for those higher level skills, instead of providing them for free.

This certification is not designed to replace physicians, but to aid them. As we all know, many technologists are capable of doing more than what hospital or facility protocols have allowed them to do. In the competitive and highly educated healthcare industry, the NMAA degree now provides nuclear medicine technologists with an opportunity to help meet the demand for advanced practitioners in imaging specialties.

Requirements

To apply for the NMAA program, an applicant must meet three requirements:

  • Be an experienced (two years or more) nuclear medicine technologist who is certified by the NMTCB or ARRT;
  • Be a baccalaureate graduate (sciences or related field); and
  • Be a highly motivated and disciplined individual with the desire to expand his or her knowledge of the molecular imaging world.

The NMAA examination, which consists of approximately 200 multiple choice questions, has historically been offered by the NMTCB twice a year — in January and July. Visit nmtcb.org for the next exam date, additional program details and to download an application for the program. The NMAA certification must be renewed annually and is valid for up to seven years with maintenance of “active”/in “good standing” nuclear medicine credentials (e.g. NMTCB, CNMT, ARRT(N) and/or CAMRT).

For further information on developing an NMAA program at your facility, please visit snmmi.org and search “Advanced Associate Council”.

— An undergraduate of the Medical College of Georgia and graduate of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Aaron Scott has worked in the nuclear medicine field for more than 10 years and is currently the SNMMI – TS President Elect.