Meeting the challenges of global nuclear medicine technologist training in the 21st century: The IAEA distance assisted training (DAT) program
Many countries have made significant investments in nuclear medicine (NM) technology with the acquisition of modern equipment and establishment of facilities, however, often appropriate training is not considered as part of these investments. Training for NM professionals is continually evolving, with a need to meet changing requirements in the workforce. Even places where established higher education courses are available, these do not necessarily cater to the practical component of training and the ever-changing technology that is central to medical imaging. The continuing advances in NM technology and growth of applications in quantitative clinical assessment place increases the pressure on technologists to learn and practice new techniques. Not only is training to understand new concepts limited but often there is inadequate training in the basics of NM and this can be a major constraint to the effective use of the evolving technology. Developing appropriate training programs for the broader international NM community is one of the goals of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). A particularly successful and relevant development has been the program on 'distance assisted training (DAT) for NM professionals'. The development of DAT was initiated in the 1990s through Australian Government funding, administered under auspices of the IAEA through its Regional Cooperative Agreement, involving most countries in Asia that are Member States of the IAEA. The project has resulted in the development of a set of training modules which are designed for use under direct supervision in the workplace, delivered through means of distance-learning. The program has undergone several revisions and peer reviews with the current version providing a comprehensive training package that is now available online. DAT has been utilized widely in Asia or the Pacific region, Latin America, and parts of Africa and Europe. Currently there are approximately 1000 registered participants, including persons providing student support, in the program.