After working as a technologist in radiology, C.T. and Nuclear Medicine for many years, I decided to go back to school in 2006, and become a registered radiation therapist. Radiation therapists are trained to follow specific treatment strategies prescribed by radiation oncologists, which then are formulated by medical physicists and dosimetrists into detailed plans for the treatment of cancer patients.
Some misunderstandings occasionally arise concerning the use of mega-voltage radiation in the treatment of certain cancers, mainly because of the obvious side affects that inevitably occur. The fact is, these side affects such as burns, rashes, nausea and diarrhea, do tend to eventually heal, and the benefits are realized in most outcomes. Tumors can be significantly reduced and often eradicated with the growing sophistication of targeted radiation treatment.
Radiation therapy is a deeply rewarding career, as well as a bittersweet one. Treatment regimens are typically six to seven weeks of daily sessions and close contact with the patient. Strong emotional bonds between the therapists and the patients can be an occupational joy, as well as a hazard. Personally, I feel that this profession is one that I am called to because I’m working to help people battle for their lives. I believe that cancer treatment completely changes a person’s outlook on life, and usually for the better.
Therapists work in pairs together in the treatment room. I have found that it is very important that both therapists are on the same page when it comes to specific treatment methods concerning the patient. The patient is already in a stressed condition facing his/her cancer combined with the rigors radiation treatment. Tact, kindness, as well as expertise in set-up and carrying out procedures in a precise and a professional manner are imperative in this field of work.
I became interested in the medical profession as a child. I was a volunteer Candy Striper at a local hospital at the age of 12, and always had the urge to help others. If I were to go back and start all over, I think I would’ve gone directly into radiation therapy instead of my roundabout way through radiology, C.T., Nuclear medicine, then back to school for radiation therapy. However, I have to say that rewarding moments have been a part of the whole radiology experience, particularly those in dealing with trauma imaging. With my abilities, I’ve been able to accurately pinpoint the source of a life threatening issues through diagnostic imaging, thus being an integral part of saving lives.
Life as a radiation therapist is not one without challenges. The radiation beam has to be accurately focused on a specified target on the patient’s body. Some types of treatments prove to be interesting daily challenges that require infinite patience. Often times, expedients such as wedges, sponges and individually form fitted implements, need to be employed daily, as positioning and immobilization devices for accurate treatment.
Depending on the workplace, patient load and management, working as a radiation therapist does have the potential to be a highly stressful profession. I’ve found that all depends on the type of work environment I’m involved with, and how well the department works as a team.
The average annual salary for a radiation therapist ranges between $68,000 to $80,000. The pay and the hours have provided a comfortable living for me, and I hold what I do for a living in high regard. I have health benefits, accrue vacation time every pay period and typically take two weeks off per year.
The route I took to become a radiation therapist was somewhat of a convoluted one. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Medical Radiography, and am registered in radiology, C.T., nuclear medicine and radiation therapy. Although the field doesn’t currently require a bachelors degree, it will be a requirement in the near future. Currently, a healthcare associate or bachelors degree is required before acceptance into a school for radiology technologists. These schools are typically two year programs that provide the didactic and clinical training required to qualify to take and pass the examination necessary to become a registered radiology technologist. Another one to three years is then required by an accredited school to become a radiation therapist.
The rewards have outnumbered the adverse challenges for me as a radiation therapist. I have recommended this field of work to many people exploring the job possibilities in healthcare, and to those already working at some capacity in healthcare who are looking for a more gratifying niche.
My goal in the next five years is to provide information and education to the people in my community regarding cancer treatment. In non-confrontational fashion, I’d like to develop an appealing method that raises awareness about symptoms of certain cancers, and that the possibility of a cure is available to them.
This is the career as told to JustJobs.com. This site houses thousands of job listings from companies across the United States. If you have considered a career in the healthcare industry, read on to learn what the job is really like from this Radiation Therapist. Visit JustJobs to find your dream job today.