Deptford Twp. – Governor Chris Christie signed into law New Jersey Senate Bill S-566 on Friday, Aug. 9, providing the first amendment in more than 55 years to the Radiation Technology Act of 1958.
Gloucester County College’s 250-acre campus is located at 1400 Tanyard Road in Deptford, right off Exit 56 of Route 55.
This landmark legislation was introduced by Senator Fred Madden, dean of Law and Justice at Gloucester County College, on behalf of Laura Sharkey-Pyle, program director of Nuclear Medicine Technology, and the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging representative Michele Egberts.
According to Sharkey-Pyle, the original Radiation Technology Act prevented nuclear medicine technologists from obtaining the non-diagnostic portion of PET-CT fusion imaging. This is because they are typically not dually-licensed in x-ray radiology.
“Hybrid PET-CT scanners have been available since 2000 and the number is rapidly increasing,” said Sharkey-Pyle. “Prior to fusion imaging, the various radiology departments were completely separate entities with their own specific training pathways.”
Such include MRI, x-ray and nuclear medicine divisions.
“Laura approached me and explained the restrictions of the current law,” said Madden. “Advancements in technology have created a need for cross-training to ensure that patients receive the highest-level medical care in the most efficient way.”
PET scans create a three-dimensional image of a functional body process. CT scans produce “slice” images of the body anatomy. PET-CT fusion uses both imaging techniques to produce a superposed picture, which can be completed in a single patient visit.
The original law prohibits nuclear medicine technologists from operating PET-CT fusion equipment — even if they were properly trained and passed CT-specific board examinations. Most medical facilities have technicians specializing in both disciplines to perform fusion scans as a result.
Furthermore, it presents a catch-22 for current college students since they must complete a CT clinical rotation. Students must go out of state to finish this requirement, driving graduates to seek employment elsewhere.
“On a national level, certifying bodies have already established guidelines, curriculum and certification boards for fusion imaging,” said Sharkey-Pyle. “Fusion imaging is formally recognized in many states. We’re now catching up in New Jersey.”
“Various medical advocacy groups and health professionals from area hospitals testified including Laura and Michele,” said Madden. “The Legislature had to first understand the science behind nuclear medicine.”
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has one year to establish a committee to draft the requirements and regulations that will govern nuclear medicine technologists who perform PET-CT fusion imaging. It was requested that Sharkey-Pyle and Egberts become members of the committee.
“This new legislation will allow nuclear medicine technologists to keep their skills in pace with advancements in technology,” said Madden. “This will be good for our graduates and for patients in general.”