Report: Nuke med techs maintain imaging quality during isotope shortage

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The skills of nuclear medicine technologists have assisted healthcare facilities in maintaining the quality of diagnostic imaging services to patients since the shutdown of the Chalk River, Ontario reactor, but long-term solutions are needed, according to a survey conducted by the Canadian Association of Medical Radiation Technologists (CAMRT).

Thirty-four percent of organizations surveyed reported that nuclear medicine technologists were redeployed, allowing them to apply transferable skills to patient care in other diagnostic imaging departments. However, as a result, 40 percent of reporting facilities showed a decrease in staff morale due to the current uncertainty and concern over potential layoffs should the shortage continue.

Some of the other survey findings are:

  • 45 percent of survey respondents had made changes to their staffing arrangements. Of these, 62 percent indicated that technologists worked longer hours when isotopes were available and 68 percent added shifts over weekends to make the best use of the limited supply.
  • Only 8 percent of institutions surveyed reported staff reductions, in the range of a dozen full-time equivalent (FTE) employees, Canada-wide.
  • 7 percent are currently considering staff reductions, and if they proceed, estimate that another 18 positions could be affected.
  • 7 percent of institutions surveyed reported an increase in staff morale.

The results underline that the summer months were challenging but manageable for survey respondents, due in part to the staffing solutions noted above, as well as a typically reduced demand during vacation periods, according to CAMRT. Several participants expressed concern about their ability to sustain quality of service over an extended period of limited supply and their hopes for a sustainable solution.