As we look forward to our next student cohort intake on the MSc/PgDip Nuclear Medicine Imaging programme in September this year, we thought it might be beneficial to reflect on the past 30 years, as the programme celebrates its tricennial anniversary in November 2023.
Led by Peter Hogg in early November 1993, the MSc in Nuclear Medicine (MSc NM) was validated at the University of Salford. This was a landmark event, being the first MSc to be validated for health-related vocational programmes at the university, and it is now the longest continually running health-related vocational MSc programme at the university.
It was the second MSc NM for radiographers to be validated in the UK – the first was at City University, London; its validation was also led by Peter Hogg in 1992.
At the onset, Salford’s MSc NM incorporated a unique feature which afforded advanced standing credit within it for the College of Radiographers (CoR) Diploma in Radionuclide Imaging (DRI)/Nuclear Medicine (DNM). The DRI/DNM was accredited with 40 units advanced standing at masters level, a third of a masters degree.
The value was derived from an analytical paper published in January 1993 by Hogg, Lucas and Glover (1). This advanced standing was especially important because it enabled radiographers holding DRI/DNM to complete a nuclear medicine masters degree and be suitably acknowledged and credited for their prior learning.
In the early 1990s the longstanding CoR DRI/DNM was being phased out, to be replaced by MSc programmes. As time progressed, several masters degrees in NM across the UK also adopted the outcomes of this analytical paper - thus opening academic and career options to radiographers.
Interestingly, also in January 1993, Dooley, Glover and Hogg published a related analytical paper which proposed 40 units at masters level within MSc medical ultrasound degrees (2). Consequently, across the UK, this credit rating was adopted into many MScs in medical ultrasound, thereby opening up important academic and career options for radiographers holding the CoR Diploma in Medical Ultrasound.
Salford’s MSc NM has been successful for 30 years, fulfilling service needs by delivering qualified nuclear medicine professionals from radiographer and technologist backgrounds.
Its success is due to the people associated with it, comprising three distinct groups. The programme teaching team continues to be large and multi-professional, representing the diverse academic, scientific and clinical disciplines associated with the subject.
Nuclear medicine and radiology managers continue to provide their support for it, by recommending it to staff wishing to train in the subject. Importantly, its students continue to be committed and aspire to achieve its standards and outcomes. However, we also recognise that this programme would not have been able to be delivered without a multi-professional approach and the university is indebted to all those who have supported it over the past 30 years.
As time progressed, Salford’s MSc NM has continued to offer students the opportunity to develop their scope of practice in a specialised area to help meet the needs of an expanding health service. Advanced courses related to the programme have included a reporting course and ongoing non-medical cardiac stressing course.
Content on the programme has also continued to keep pace with clinical practice to equip both nuclear medicine radiographers and technologists with current skills and knowledge, with content on radiopharamacy, hybrid imaging with single-photon emission computed tomography-computed tomography (SPECT-CT), positron emission tomography (PET), PET-CT and more recently positron emission tomography-magnetic resonance imaging (PET-MRI).
Salford’s MSc NM has also kept up to date with the delivery of teaching content such as moving from day release to block release and shortening the course from 18 months to a 12-month PGDip in 2009; making the programme more geographically accessible; online teaching of statistics dating back to around 2010; and the current format of taking a blended learning approach that offers flexibility of online teaching and teaching materials but also opportunities for interaction on site within the university.
Many of our MSc graduates, following attendance on our programme, have gained senior positions in clinical departments, industry and in education and research. However, it is important to acknowledge the support of past and present academic staff and external lecturers and practitioners who have supported the programme through many changes and challenges including the Covid-19 pandemic.
As we look forward to celebrating our current student cohort successes and reflect on 30 years of the programme, we are also looking at further developments to ensure it remains current and reflects the future demands of the nuclear medicine workforce.
As a part of the teaching team, and now programme leader, it has been interesting to see the diversity of roles within nuclear medicine linked to imaging and treatment continue to grow. The University of Salford’s MSc NM has kept pace with these changes and ensures nuclear medicine radiographers and technologists have the knowledge and skills to be able to work in any nuclear medicine department.
Looking ahead to the future applications of nuclear medicine and where the programme will evolve over the coming years, I feel we may see developments in oncology, neurology, and cardiology and with radiopharmaceutical chemistry and hybrid instrumentation with PET-CT, PET-MRI, radionuclide therapy (molecular radiography), radioimmunotherapy, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI).
However, in among all these upcoming developments it is important to ensure patient-centred care remains at the forefront to ensure a positive patient experience in nuclear medicine, helping to alleviate patient anxiety and raise knowledge of the increasingly integral role nuclear medicine plays with patient management in healthcare (3).
Dr Rob Higgins is Programme Leader, MSc/PGDip Nuclear Medicine, at the University of Salford.
I would like to thank Professor Peter Hogg, Professor Emeritus, University of Salford and Dr Andrew Tootell, Senior Lecturer, University of Salford, Programme lead from 2007 to 2021, for providing historical details about the MSc NM at the University of Salford.