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Radiation Therapy

The Science of Healing, The Art of a Team Approach

What is the Role of a Radiation Therapist?

Who is On the Team?

Radiation treatment is administered by a team of highly qualified healthcare professionals. This team is comprised of specialists that have years of experience in treating cancer. Some of the typical members of the team are listed below; depending on the patient's treatment needs, other specialists may be asked to join the team.

Radiation Therapist
Conduct the treatment for each session. Position the patient on the treatment table so that radiation can be delivered, run the equipment, and work very closely with the medical physicist during the treatment.

Other members of the team consist of:

Radiation Oncologist
A medical doctor who specializes in the use of radiation for treating cancer. They are the patient's doctor through this process and will prescribe, plan and direct the patient's treatment.They are also responsible for deciding what method of radiation therapy is indicated for each case.

Medical Physicist
Work with the dosimetrist and the radiation oncologist to measure the precision of the treatment plan and work with the equipment to calculate the best angles to treat the tumor, or tumor site. Runs frequent safety checks and makes sure that the equipment is working properly.

Work closely with the radiation oncologist and the medical physicist in designing the patient's treatment. Determine the best angles from which to deliver the radiation, prescribe the length of time for each pulse of radiation, and develop strategies on how best to avoid giving radiation to healthy tissue in the body.

Radiation Nurse
Coordinate the patient's care, help them to learn about their treatment, and tell them how to manage any side effects that they might experience.

What is the Required Key Skill Set?

What is the Work Environment?

Radiation therapists work in healthcare facilities or cancer treatment centers. Radiation therapists are on their feet for long periods and may need to lift or turn disabled patients. Because they work with radiation and radioactive material, radiation therapists must follow safety procedures to make sure that they are not exposed to a potentially harmful amount of radiation. This restriction usually means standing in a different room while the patient undergoes radiation procedures.

What Are the Educational Requirements?

Although candidates may qualify by completing a 12-month certificate program, employers usually prefer to hire applicants who have an associate’s or a bachelor's degree in radiation therapy.  

Radiation therapy programs include courses in radiation therapy procedures and the scientific theories behind them. In addition, these programs often include courses in human anatomy and physiology, physics, algebra, computer science, and research methodology.

Licenses and Certification
In most states, radiation therapists must have a license. Requirements vary by state. To be licensed radiation therapists must usually graduate from an accredited radiation therapy program and be certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). To become ARRT certified, an applicant must complete an accredited radiation therapy program, adhere to ARRT ethical standards, and pass the ARRT certification exam. The exam covers radiation protection and quality assurance, clinical concepts in radiation oncology, treatment planning, treatment delivery, and patient care and education.

Which Are the Top Schools in the US?

#1 Oregon Health and Science University
#2 University of Nebraska Medical Center
#3 Ohio State University
#4 California State University - Long Beach
#5 Virginia Commonwealth University
#6 Wayne State University
#7 Texas State University
#8 Grand Valley State University
#9 Southern Illinois University – Carbondale
#10 University of Alabama - Birmingham

What is the Average Annual Salary?

$74,980 (median annual wage, May 2010)
$36.05 per hour

The median annual wage of radiation therapists was $74,980 in May 2010. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $50,950, and the top 10 percent earned more than $110,550.

Most radiation therapists work full time. Because radiation therapy procedures are usually planned in advance, radiation therapists keep a regular work schedule.

What is the Employment Outlook for Physical Therapy?

Employment of radiation therapists is expected to grow by 20 percent between 2010 and 2020, faster than the average for all occupations.  However, because it is a small occupation, the fast growth will result in only about 3,400 new jobs over the 10-year period.

The risk of cancer increases as people age, so an aging population will increase demand for radiation therapists. Early diagnosis and the development of more sophisticated treatment techniques will also increase employment

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