Radiation therapist

The radiation therapist (or Therapeutic Radiographer (esp. UK) is a health care professional who manages the details of the radiation process. Radiation therapists use advanced computer systems to operate sophisticated radiation therapy equipment. The therapist works closely with the radiation oncologist, patients and other members of the health care team. They effectively plan, treat and manage the patient's well-being during the course of radiation treatment. Radiation Therapists primarily treat cancer although other disorders and conditions can be managed through the care of radiation therapists. After the radiation oncologist has consulted with the patient and a decision has been reached that the application of radiation will benefit the patient, it then becomes the radiation therapist's responsibility to interpret the prescription and develop a treatment plan for treatment delivery. The process of producing the final plan rests with a group of specialised radiation therapists called "dosimetrists".

Since the course of radiation therapy can extend over several weeks, the radiation therapist is responsible for monitoring the condition of the patient and is required to assess if changes to the treatment plan are required. This is accomplished through patient re-positioning, dose calculations or other specialized methods to compensate for the changes.The therapist is responsible for quality assurance of the radiation treatment. This involves acquiring and recording all parameters needed to deliver the treatment accurately. The therapist ensures that the treatment set-up is correctly administered. The therapist takes imaging studies of the targeted treatment area and reproduces the patient positioning and plan parameters daily. The therapist is responsible for the accuracy of the treatment and uses his/her judgments to ensure quality with regards to all aspects of treatment delivery.During the course of radiation treatment, the patient will most likely develop certain side effects. In such situations, the therapists will use their medical knowledge to provide management strategies to minimize the impact of those side effects to the patient.

Radiation therapists & medical dosimetrists (in many countries these two professions are often indistinguishable, ie. Canada, Australia, UK) have a strong grasp of gross anatomy, physiology, radiation biology and protection, oncology, and medical physics. They are highly skilled, highly regarded health care professionals who are integral members of the cancer care team. Radiation therapists and dosimetrists are often involved in radiation medicine research as well. Radiation therapists call upon their judgment to either continue or cease radiation treatment and ensure patient safety at all times and are regulated by a governing body within their jurisdiction.

A common misnomer for Radiation Therapists are "radiation technician" or "radiation therapy technicians" which are reserved for those who maintain radiation therapy machines.

US: Education required is generally a High School diploma with two years of technical school, culminating in a certificate. Although there are programs that offer an Associate or Bachelor of Science degree or equivalent. Further study at the Masters level (M.Sc. in Therapeutic Radiography) is available in Canada, the United States, the UK and in Australia for positions in advanced practice and teaching.

In the UK a 3 year BSc(Hons)in Therapeutic Radiography must be undertaken prior to registration by the UK regulatory authority the Health Professions Council. UK radiographers are eligible for membership of the Society & College of Radiographers.

Proposals of Radiation Therapy Advanced Practitioners

Currently, there are some proposals of Radiation Therapy Advanced Practitioners in several areas of the world including the UK, Canada(Ontario), and the United States. The proposed RTPs will have the prescription power of medications related to radiation therapy(ie. strong pain killers for palliative patients), imaging contrasts, and also some radiation doses The other powers of the RTPs will include image analysis, dosimetry plan & simulation plan sign-off, patient history review & conduct interviews, and perform other advanced procedures more autonomously. [http://www.ontarioradiationtherapy.ca/Home.aspx?PageID=13&mid=_ctl0_MainMenu__ctl1-menuItem005-subMenu-menuItem001] The education requirement will be a Master's degree in Radiation Therapy (professional Master's like the Master's in Nursing Practice usually require at least 3 years of clinical experience, not including the clinical practicum during the undergraduate study period). Eventually, the RTPs will be able to become Consultant Practitioners with doctoral degrees, who will be the experts in the radiation therapy & medical dosimetry field and will be able to prescribe radiation doses without any physician supervision.

The progress of these proposals are going really well. In Ontario, this proposal is supported by the Ministry of Health & the government, and funding was already provided for the last phase of the study. There are already RTPs working unoffically in various cancer centers in Southern Ontario, and the suggested salary range for these advanced practitioners are significantly higher than that of nurse practitioners who are currently practicing in Ontario. The study will be finished around 2010.


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