Radiation Therapists

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Also known as:
Dosimetrist, Radiation Therapist, Radiation Therapy Technologist, Registered Radiation Therapist

ABOUT RADIATION THERAPIST CAREERS
Video transcript

In the treatment of patients with cancer, radiation therapists provide a crucial service. They operate highly sophisticated equipment that uses beams of radiation to destroy tumors. Also known as radiation therapy technologists, they work closely with physicians and radiologists to plan the safest dose for each patient.

Therapists must be strong enough to move or lift patients win order to position them properly. They monitor patients during treatment, keep records of results, and give guidance and emotional support to patients and their families.

Radiation therapists work in hospitals, clinics, and medical centers. While day shifts are the most common, some employers might require you to work evenings or weekends. There can be some exposure to radiation, but dangerous amounts are not likely. Therapists often wear protective gear and must always follow required safety procedures.

To become a radiation therapist, you need to complete a certificate program or have an associate or bachelor's degree in radiation therapy and some knowledge of medicine, dentistry, computers, and electronics.

Radiation therapists must also pass a national exam to obtain their certification. Community colleges and universities and some hospitals offer training programs. Employers often prefer graduates who also pass a national certification exam.

In some states, these therapists must be licensed. Radiation therapy is a valuable and commonly used weapon in fighting cancer. Radiation therapists will be increasingly needed to help save lives through technology.

SNAPSHOT
Provide radiation therapy to patients as prescribed by a radiation oncologist according to established practices and standards. Duties may include reviewing prescription and diagnosis; acting as liaison with physician and supportive care personnel; preparing equipment, such as immobilization, treatment, and protection devices; and maintaining records, reports, and files. May assist in dosimetry procedures and tumor localization.
Leadership
HIGH
Critical decision making
HIGH
Level of responsibilities
HIGH
Job challenge and pressure to meet deadlines
HIGH
Dealing and handling conflict
HIGH
Competition for this position
HIGH
Communication with others
HIGH
Work closely with team members, clients etc.
HIGH
Comfort of the work setting
HIGH
Exposure to extreme environmental conditions
LOW
Exposure to job hazards
LOW
Physical demands
LOW
Daily tasks

Train or supervise student or subordinate radiotherapy technologists.

Provide assistance to other healthcare personnel during dosimetry procedures and tumor localization.

Help physicians, radiation oncologists, or clinical physicists to prepare physical or technical aspects of radiation treatment plans, using information about patient condition and anatomy.

Conduct most treatment sessions independently, in accordance with the long-term treatment plan and under the general direction of the patient's physician.

Maintain records, reports, or files as required, including such information as radiation dosages, equipment settings, or patients' reactions.

Prepare or construct equipment, such as immobilization, treatment, or protection devices.

Check for side effects, such as skin irritation, nausea, or hair loss to assess patients' reaction to treatment.

Observe and reassure patients during treatment and report unusual reactions to physician or turn equipment off if unexpected adverse reactions occur.

Educate, prepare, and reassure patients and their families by answering questions, providing physical assistance, and reinforcing physicians' advice regarding treatment reactions or post-treatment care.

Photograph treated area of patient and process film.

Position patients for treatment with accuracy, according to prescription.

MAIN ACTIVITIES
Assisting and Caring for Others Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
Controlling Machines and Processes Using either control mechanisms or direct physical activity to operate machines or processes (not including computers or vehicles).
Inspecting Equipment, Structures, or Material Inspecting equipment, structures, or materials to identify the cause of errors or other problems or defects.
Documenting/Recording Information Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
Performing for or Working Directly with the Public Performing for people or dealing directly with the public. This includes serving customers in restaurants and stores, and receiving clients or guests.
Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
AREAS OF KNOWLEDGE
Customer and Personal Service Knowledge of principles and processes for providing customer and personal services. This includes customer needs assessment, meeting quality standards for services, and evaluation of customer satisfaction.
English Language Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
Medicine and Dentistry Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.
Physics Knowledge and prediction of physical principles, laws, their interrelationships, and applications to understanding fluid, material, and atmospheric dynamics, and mechanical, electrical, atomic and sub- atomic structures and processes.
Mathematics Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
Education and Training Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
Computers and Electronics Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
Therapy and Counseling Knowledge of principles, methods, and procedures for diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation of physical and mental dysfunctions, and for career counseling and guidance.
TOP SKILLS
Active Listening Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
Reading Comprehension Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
Critical Thinking Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
Operation Monitoring Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.
Social Perceptiveness Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
Coordination Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
Speaking Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Service Orientation Actively looking for ways to help people.