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Nicole LaBrecque

New & Cleared: Nuclear Medicine Technologist Passes Three Board Exams Within Three Months of Graduating

  • Though she only graduated recently, Nicole LaBrecque, CNMT, RT(N), NMTCB(CT) has already completed three nuclear medicine technology certifications.

    In December 2020, Nicole LaBrecque, CNMT, RT(N), NMTCB(CT) earned her Bachelor of Science in Nuclear Medicine Technology after having completed MCPHS’s 15-month Fast Track program. But even before Nicole had graduated, she began working as a Nuclear Medicine Technologist (NMT) at Newton-Wellesley Hospital. How did she do it? She took the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board (NMTCB) exam in November, right before starting her job. This was just the first of three certifications that Nicole accomplished within three months of her graduation.

    Proactive and purposeful, Nicole says she wanted to take her board exams as soon as possible. Since she became certified as a Nuclear Medicine Technologist a full month before her graduation, she next focused her attention on the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board for Computed Tomography. Program Director and Associate Professor of Nuclear Medicine Technology at MCPHS, Dr. David Gilmore, says this exam usually takes NMTs a year to prepare for, yet Nicole passed the computed tomography board exam in December 2020—the same month that she graduated. Despite her impressive ability to study for a board exam in the same month that she was wrapping up classes, Nicole credits her preparedness to MCPHS’s new NMT curriculum: “The program allowed us to do a few weeks’ rotation in a CT department to get all the comps for that exam. So when I finished the program, I already had all the education and training, so I was able to take that exam.” Nicole was part of the first graduating class at MCPHS to experience this hands-on, CT clinical rotation built into the NMT curriculum. Dr. Gilmore advocated for this program change, and he is also actively coordinating with the Society of Nuclear Medicine & Molecular Imaging to incorporate the CT component into the NMT curriculum nationwide.

    Just three months after graduating and passing her computed tomography exam, Nicole passed yet another board exam: The Nuclear Medicine Technology (RTN) certification from the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). Although it is not a requirement in Massachusetts to have both the CNMT certification from the NMTCB as well as the RTN certification from the ARRT, Nicole says that Dr. Gilmore encourages students to get both, since they are eligible upon completing the program. Taking advantage of her eligibility, Nicole took the ARRT exam in March 2021. She admits that it was much easier to study for this exam, since she just had to refresh her memory on everything that she had studied for the NMTCB exam in the fall. Additionally, Nicole says the setup of MCPHS’s NMT program was helpful because there were two review classes, one in the summer and one in the fall, dedicated to board preparation. “Each week we would have a module based on a body system or subgroup that would be on the exam,” she says. “So, I think that was helpful to go back and refresh our minds with older material that we don’t necessarily use every day.”

    In addition to being a studious healthcare professional, Nicole also exhibits leadership. Just one month into the NMT program, Dr. Gilmore encouraged her to apply to a leadership opportunity with the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI). “I did my undergrad at Quinnipiac before coming to MCPHS, and I was really involved on my panel and sorority E-boards. So, coming into the program, I think he knew that I was interested in that kind of stuff,” she says. “I like to be involved, and I like working with a team.” Nicole was chosen as one of five students to attend the SNMMI Annual Leadership Academy, which was held in Tampa, Florida, back in January 2020. Over the course of a two-day conference, Nicole got to meet nuclear medicine technologists from all over the country. “It was interesting to see how different their programs were mapped out based on clinical rotations, and how much time is spent in clinical, and how they fit that into their class curriculum,” she says. She also enjoyed learning about the other side of nuclear medicine from the perspective of people involved in the laws and regulations around it. She applies this same interest and respect for each role of nuclear medicine to her day-to-day as well: “In your department, you really are a team. Everyone needs to do their job and participate, and you all just have to work together.” Nicole continues to be a member of the SNMMI’s Graduate and Student Committee, and the Women in Nuclear Medicine working group.

    Next fall, Nicole will be enrolled in MCPHS’s Master of Science in Clinical Research. “When I was trying to decide which program I wanted to apply to, the research ones stood out to me just because there’s a lot of new and upcoming research with PET scans and new PET tracers, and I enjoy being more hands-on,” she says. Nicole is a recipient of the Advantage Scholarship, which she called “an incredible opportunity” for MCPHS graduates who want to continue their education.