With the increasing sophistication of Nuclear Medicine and the significant regional investment in the technology it is clear that Nuclear Medicine Technologist (NMT) training is a critical factor in its development. The lack of training, however, is a major constraint to the effective use of this technology. Often there is insufficient understanding of the basic concepts and there are few opportunities for formalized training. Technologists have diverse educational backgrounds and languages, operate varied equipment and many work in geographically remote practices. Recent estimates indicate that in the Asian region ~4000 technologists (~7000 worldwide) have inadequate training.
In 1992 the Australian Government (through its AusAID programme) agreed to fund a project to develop a training program for Nuclear Medicine Technologists. This was approved as a Regional Cooperative Agreement (RCA) project to be administered by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), through the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). The project commenced in early 1994 with Prof. Brian Hutton as Project Manager and Heather Patterson as Project Coordinator, based at Westmead Hospital, Sydney, Australia.
The objective was to provide countries with teaching resources for development of technologist training that is appropriate to the background of the students and the geographical distribution of Nuclear Medicine practices. Also, to provide a framework for delivery of training courses that can be adapted to best suit local need. The programme therefore referred to as a ‘distance assisted’ training (DAT) since it encourages adoption of a distance learning approach that can be conducted in the participating countries on a sustainable basis. The aim was to encourage the adoption of standard basic training methods with the added benefit of improving the quality of clinical practice.
DAT (PART 1) has a comprehensive syllabus with 30 subjects delivered in 12 modules at basic and advanced levels involving a total of ~600 hrs of study. The focus on experiential learning techniques reinforces the principles and encourages a problem solving approach. Pilot studies to test basic subjects commenced 1995 and again with advanced subjects 1999 – 2002 with >300 students in 9 RCA member states completing and undergoing full assessment.
Pilot studies were also undertaken in Latin America with 90 students in 12 countries and in Africa with 13 students in 2 countries. Outcomes include the translation of the DAT materials to Chinese and Spanish also reports of technologists adopting a problem solving attitude and improved self esteem. Recently the IAEA agreed that ALASBIMN manage the program in Central and South America and the EANM to support Eastern European countries to adopt DAT. Further translations may be required for EEU member states.
The training materials have undergone rigorous international review prior to their formal release in 2005 and DAT is currently active in 5 RCA countries involving ~250 students. Recently Thailand commenced their 4th DAT course. Much of the success is attributed to the commitment of national DAT coordinators and students along with support from national Societies of Nuclear Medicine. Pilot studies and current activities indicate a total of >600 NM technologists globally have experienced Distance Assisted Training with ~85% in RCA.
DAT (PART 2)
Following the success of PART 1, the IAEA / RCA have developed further training modules for SPECT/CT and PET/CT. The design format follows the same work-integrated learning principles as previous modules requiring a ‘hands-on’ approach with practical exercises to reinforce the theory, on-going assignments and comprehensive final assessment. However, the method of program delivery, management and monitoring progress is conducted on-line through this DAT website. In order to enhance image viewing, data processing and methods to assist understanding of difficult concepts there is access to complementary training materials on-line and/or available on CD for each participant. Necessary on-line activities include course registration, access to training modules, assignments and assessments.