Purpose and Mission
A radiation therapist is a healthcare professional who helps manage treatments for cancer patients. Working closely with radiation oncologists, radiation therapists oversee the design, calculation and delivery of a prescribed radiation dose as part of a treatment plan for a patient. With the use of the latest imaging equipment and advanced computer systems to develop a treatment plan to target a tumor, it is possible to deliver the requisite dose of radiation directly to the tumor, and largely avoid healthy tissue. The radiation therapist is responsible for seeing that the planned treatment is delivered with the highest possible accuracy and precision.
Radiation therapists typically report to an oncologist and/or an administrative oncologist. Most radiation therapists work as employees at hospitals, clinics, and schools, but a small percentage practice as self-employed individuals who work on a contract basis.
While most radiation therapists have minimal supervisory responsibilities (aside from training new colleagues), they are expected to work as a part of a multidisciplinary team, which requires strong interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate with hospital/clinic staff, patients, carers and students.
Radiation therapists have earned either a bachelors or master’s degree in medical radiation science. After completing the required academic curriculum, the student radiation therapist must undertake a one year supervised clinical program (the National Professional Development Programme (NPDP). You must successfully complete this year of structured supervised practice to be accredited to practice in Australia.
Responsibilities of a Radiation Therapist
The basic responsibilities of a radiation therapist are to simulate, plan and treat patients using ionising radiation safely and efficiently while maintaining all applicable radiation therapy standards
21st century radiation therapists are also expected to be able to design and provide patient positioning aides and treatment related accessories as necessary, as well as operate any required equipment in accordance with all relevant policies and standards.
By the same token, radiation therapists today are expected to have experience with a variety of equipment, including superficial, orthovoltage, high/low dose rate afterloading brachytherapy and the use of multi-modal linear accelerators in most cases. A growing number of employers today prefer candidates with experience in CT or virtual simulation and 3D conformal planning, as well as skills in intensity modulated radiotherapy planning and treatment.