What is a Radiation Therapist?
A radiation therapist is someone who treats cancer and other diseases in patients by giving radiation treatments. Most radiation therapists work in hospitals or cancer treatment centres.
What does a Radiation Therapist do?
Radiation therapists typically do the following:
- Examine machines to make sure they are safe and working properly
- Explain treatment plans to the patient and answer questions about treatment
- Follow safety procedures to protect the patient and themselves from overexposure
- X-ray the patient to determine the exact location of the area requiring treatment
- Check the computer programs to make sure that they will give the correct dose of radiation to the correct area of the patient's body
- Operate the equipment to treat the patient with radiation
- Monitor the patient to check for unusual reactions to the treatment
- Keep detailed records of treatment
Most radiation therapy involves machines called linear accelerators. These machines direct high-energy x-rays at specific cancer cells in a patient's body, shrinking or removing them. Radiation therapists are part of the oncology team that treat patients with cancer. They often work with the following specialists:
What is the workplace of a Radiation Therapist like?
Radiation therapists work in healthcare facilities or cancer treatment centers. They 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to become a Radiation Therapist?
Following successful completion of high school, and depending on whether they choose to pursue an Associate’s degree or a Bachelor’s degree, aspiring radiation therapists could be ready to work in the field in less than three years.
Bachelor’s Degree – typically, four years Associate’s Degree – typically, two years Certification / Licensing – The exam requires a single day; however, students must submit an application and fee and then prepare, a process that could take a few months
Are Radiation Therapists happy?
One recent study revealed the level of job satisfaction for radiation therapists, based on three different metrics:
Upward Mobility / Opportunities for advancement Average
Stress Level / Stress caused by work environment and complexities of the job’s responsibilities Below Average
Flexibility / Alternative working schedule and work-life balance Above Average
Should I become a Radiation Therapist?
There is no one specific personality most suited to the career of radiation therapist. However, in addition to interest and ability in science, there are certain traits and characteristics considered especially useful in the role:
Interpersonal Skills Working with cancer patients on a daily basis calls for someone who is not only adept at monitoring patients’ comfort, but sensitive and responsive to the physical and emotional stress they may be experiencing. Radiation therapists must also be empathetic to the concerns of patients’ families. Furthermore, as part of a team of medical professionals collaborating for the well-being of the patient, they must have the ability to listen and speak articulately.
Observation & Critical Thinking Skills Radiation therapists must be able to recognize problems, assess issues, and determine the appropriate approach and solution given the resources at hand.
Attention to Detail It is crucial that radiation therapists follow instructions precisely and administer exact measurements to ensure that a patient is exposed to the correct amount of radiation. If proper protocols are not followed, radiation exposure can be very dangerous. This work demands awareness of the safety of everyone involved in the procedure.
Physical Stamina Radiation therapist are often on their feet for long periods and may need to lift and move patients who need assistance.
Technical Skills Radiation therapy is an evolving field of medical science. It is technology driven and complex. Anyone working in the field must be comfortable adapting to changes in computer software and technical equipment.
Some Pros and Cons of working as a radiation therapist may also help in determining whether this is the career for you:
Pros -A steady work schedule -Advancement opportunities -High earning potential -Considerable projected job growth of 14% through 2024
Cons -Possibility of radiation exposure -Potential emotional toll of treating terminally ill patients -Need to stand for long periods of time
After considering all of the information above, perhaps the two most important questions to ask yourself before committing to this work are, ‘Am I equally comfortable around people and machines?’ and ‘Do I hope for a career helping others in difficult circumstances?’ If your answers are ‘Yes’ and ‘Yes,’ you may have a future as a radiation therapist.
Steps to becoming a Radiation Therapist
In general, the path to becoming a radiation therapist will be the same for all students, with minor deviations depending on individual choices and jurisdictional requirements.
Radiation Therapists are also known as:
Therapeutic Radiographer Radiotherapist Registered Radiation Therapist