Radiation therapy careers involve being an important part of a medical team whose goals are the treatments of disease by controlled application of radiation to the affected area, which is most often one form or another of cancer. Certified radiation therapists are able to guide patients through all stages of treatment, monitoring and documenting all progress and improvements. Radiation therapist careers are highly skilled specialty areas for which a solid foundation in radiology is a prerequisite.
Duties and Responsibilities
Radiation therapist duties include preparing and storing materials such as cesium, cobalt, and isotopes that are used in treatment. Other responsibilities include calculating radiation doses, keeping photographic records of the area being treated, setting up and testing all radiation therapy equipment, programming this equipment to administer the proper doses according to prescriptions, and maintaining updated patient records. Additional components of the radiation therapy job description are educating patients about the treatment process, training new radiation therapy staff, communicating directions from physicians to other healthcare support personnel, and monitoring patients over time for any unexpected side effects.
Radiation therapist skills that are especially in demand are the abilities to communicate clearly with both patients and other healthcare personnel during all phases of treatment. Therapists work closely with patients and their families, answering questions and providing reassurance through all phases of an often-difficult process. Some of these components of the job can be stressful at times, but many radiation therapists find this career very rewarding.
Radiation therapists work in cancer treatment centers and large hospitals that have their own cancer treatment units. Unlike physicians and other healthcare personnel, radiation therapists normally work only 40 hours per week during the day. However, they may be required to be on call outside of their work hours in case of a patient emergency. An important radiation therapist qualification is the ability to safely help patients move on and off beds with the proper support. Radiation therapists must also be able to work long hours while standing.
The projected growth for radiation therapy careers is quite good, and many opportunities are available in hospitals, private clinics, doctors’ offices, and specialized outpatient treatment centers. Due to a large aging population that will require more medical treatments in the near future, demand is growing for new health care workers with proper radiation therapist qualification. A significant amount of research has been dedicated to improving the safety and effectiveness of radiation technology, another factor contributing to the growth of radiation therapist careers as the frequency of radiation treatment prescriptions increases.