Objectives: Nuclear medicine (NM) is a rapidly developing field. In Portugal, no occupational study has been conducted yet that characterizes the professional profile of NM technologists (NMTs). We investigated the clinical tasks performed by NMTs in Portugal, analysing their practices with regard to radiation protection matters and their compliance with established international guidelines for best practice.
Methods: A questionnaire targeted at NMTs was constructed and distributed among 105 NMTs working in Portugal (an estimated 88% of the NMT population in Portugal). Questions addressed the demographic profile, academic background and professional profile of NMTs, with emphasis on practices adopted in NM tasks and radiation protection.
Results: In all, 51.4% of the 105 NMTs responded. The majority (70.4%) of the NMTs studied were women, with an average age of 34.3 (±10.4) years and 11.6 (±10.6) years of professional experience. The reported NM tasks included radiopharmaceutical preparation (96.3%), PET (44.4%), intravenous administration (74.1%), administration with dose containers (97.7%) and administration with syringe shields (76.9%). The use of a protective lead apron was rare (2.7%). The average individual dose recorded was 3.8 (±2.7%) mSv/year.
Conclusion: NMTs in Portugal are generally young women with specialized academic education, consistent with the developments in NM technology and education in Portugal since the past decade. The majority of NMT activities are focused on conventional NM. The estimated annual average individual dose is below the established legal limit. However, radiation protection practices related to staff protection are not harmonized, revealing key aspects to be considered in future education and training.