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Radiation Therapy Jobs: Radiation Therapy Schools, Radiation Therapist and Technologist Career

The field of cancer treatment and radiation requires the strongest and most skilled radiation therapists in the industry; attending radiation therapy school is the first step towards a rewarding and successful radiation career, and programs are designed to teach students essential skills for treating disease, working with patients, and excelling in a laboratory or research clinic environment.

A radiation therapist is primarily involved with designing and implementing treatment plans to treat cancer by using the ionizing radiation process. A radiation therapy technologist works with a health care team to coordinate treatment programs, document results, and complete protocols and procedures at each stage of treatment. Since the diagnosis, treatment, and administration process can be an extensive procedure, radiation therapy jobs require formal training and professional development from a radiation therapy school. Both the radiation therapist and radiation therapy technologist can gain the skills, knowledge, and certification needed through a variety of radiation therapy schools and lifelong education programs.

What is Radiation Therapy?

Radiation therapy is the process of implementing ionized radiation to treat cancer and other diseases using a special procedure and equipment. Radiation therapy equipment is often comprised of an external beam that projects x-rays at cancer cells and the entire treatment process goes through a set of phases. A skilled radiation therapist is needed at each stage of treatment. Radiation therapy stages include:

1.     Simulation

2.     Administration of radiation treatment

3.     Treatment phase

The simulation phase requires the radiation therapist to use various computer data and software programs to determine the amount of radiation to use on the cancerous tissue. This is often developed alongside a radiation oncologist, and a radiation therapy technologist who is may consult with the patient on the procedure and answer any questions.

The administration phase involves projecting the laser beam on to the patient and may be administered on a specific schedule. This can last between 2-9 weeks, and the radiation therapist is responsible for protecting the patient from harmful x-rays and monitoring the entire process.

The treatment phase involves understanding the patient's reaction to the administration process and monitoring results. The radiation therapist must be acutely aware of the patient's health, mental state, and any emotional issues that may result from the treatment. At this stage, the radiation therapy technologist may also aid with recordkeeping, data management, reporting, and documenting each process.

Radiation Therapy Jobs and Types of Positions

Radiation therapy jobs and types of positions include:

  • Radiation Therapist
  • Radiation Therapy Technologist
  • Radiation Oncologist
  • Radiation Therapy Team Supervisor
  • Radiation Therapy Treatment Research
  • Radiation Therapy Educator
  • Radiation Therapy Equipment Sales Representative

Radiation Therapy School: Programs and Curriculum

Radiation therapy schools offer a formal Radiation Therapy Program where students can gain hands=on experience in a simulation clinic and laboratory setting, and integrate their knowledge of essential clinical areas throughout their course of study. Students of a radiation therapy school are encouraged to:

  • Provide outstanding patient care

  • Adopt essential professional skills in different clinical settings

  •  Advance in their knowledge and education with lifelong education opportunities

  • Excel in their field of radiation therapy with ongoing professional development

  • Develop strong communication and interpersonal skills for success throughout their radiation career

A portion of the radiation therapy school programs may also include clinical trials and direct interaction with patients. Students learn the protocol and procedures for radiation administration and treatment, and are supervised with the aid of a staff radiation therapist or oncologist. Students can gain extensive experience in all areas of radiation oncology with:

  • Clinical training that includes Intraoperative radiotherapy (IORT), Brachytherapy, Hyperthermia, and Leksell gamma knife radiosurgery

  • Didactic training that is comprised of a full-time, instructional program

  • Off-site rotations that allow students to develop skills in a real-life setting

Common course programs available at radiation therapy schools include:

  • Cross-sectional Anatomy

  • Pathology

  • Patient Care in Radiation Oncology

  • Health Care Finance

  • Dosimetry and Treatment Planning

  • Fundamentals of Pharmacotherapy

Radiation Career Training and Qualifications

A successful radiation career begins with at least an associates or a bachelor's degree in radiation therapy, and most students attending radiation therapy school are required to complete a variety of assessments and examinations in the areas of radiological imaging, human physiology, research methodology, and human anatomy. Not all States require a radiation therapist to be licensed, but both a radiation therapy technologist and radiation therapist can become professionally certified with the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). ARRT certification is valid for one year, and requires radiation therapy students to complete various classes related to the certification examination such as:

  • Radiation protection

  • Quality assurance

  • Clinical concepts in radiation oncology

  • Treatment delivery

  • Patient care and education

  • Simulation procedures

  • Understanding and implementing high-risk procedures

  • Radiation treatment procedure and protocol

Radiation Therapy Career Potential and Employment Prospects

Radiation therapy career opportunities and job prospects look promising, especially for students who choose to excel in their career and continue with professional development in their field. Radiation therapy jobs and related fields are expected to grow faster than average through 2014; the median annual earnings for a radiation therapist were $57,700 in 2004. Related radiation therapy job options may include:

  • Radiation therapy technician

  • Radiation therapy technologist assistant

  • Diagnostic medical sonographers

  • Nuclear medicine technicians

  • Physicians and surgeons

  • Registered nurses

  • Respiratory therapists


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