Radiation Therapy Technologist

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Radiation Therapy Technologist


Cancer is an illness that can strike anyone, at any time. It can destroy all parts of the body, from brain to bone marrow. There are a number of treatments to rid the body of cancer, and one of the most popular is radiation therapy.

Radiation therapy technologists have an important role to play in the treatment of various forms of cancer. These trained technologists use focused beams of radiation and place radiation directly into the patients' bodies in an effort to destroy tumors while protecting healthy tissues. They use high levels of radiation, and so must be precise and cautious in their work. Not only do they need steady hands, but they need to make careful calculations when deciding on the dosages for the radiation. They take into account patient size and tumor location before deciding on the correct treatment. They must also monitor patient reaction, and are in contact with the physician in case of any changes, reactions, or complications in the treatment process.

Radiation therapy can take weeks or months. The technologist often forms a close bond with the patients and their families. They counsel patients on side effects, and give advice on how to cope. They become a support to the patient during these tough and trying times.

Radiation therapy technologists are crucial to the treatment of cancer. Their expert knowledge of the technologies can eradicate many forms of cancer, and save lives. Without these technologists, their precise measurements, and their steady hands, there would be fewer cancer survivors today.
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  Interests and Skills  
Radiation therapy technologists must be technologically minded, and enjoy precise tasks with clear rules and guidelines. People who go into this career need to be calm with a sensitive demeanor, a gentle disposition, and a sense of humor. They are organized, efficient, and safety-conscious, with a desire to help people. In order to be successful radiation therapy technologists must work well with others, have good communication skills, and be open to other cultures and belief systems.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Explain the procedure to the patient
  • Answer questions as fully as possible
  • Comfort the patient and provide emotional support
  • Take measurements
  • Calculate radiation dose
  • Correctly position the patient and the equipment
  • Ensure that the patient, all staff, and visitors are protected from radiation
  • Monitor the patient during procedure
  • Perform any minor repairs to equipment when necessary
  • The typical day for a radiation therapy technologist will involve working closely with a number of clients. The environment can be tense, due to the nature of the diseases being treated. Radiation therapy technologists work indoors, with little opportunity to travel.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Radiation therapy technologists work in hospitals and health clinics. They work in offices, and in screening rooms. They work with radiation, so must be prepared to take safety precautions. They work regular hours, but may be required to work some evenings or weekends, depending on the clinic. They work in small teams of doctors, technicians, assistants, and receptionists.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Radiation therapy technologists can become supervisors, or become college instructors. They can branch into other forms of radiation technology, or can go on to become public health nurses, teaching people about early detection of cancer. They can become counselors for cancer sufferers or survivors and their families. Or, they can become advocates for cancer sufferers and head up fundraising campaigns for research and support groups.

  Educational Paths  
To become a radiation therapy technologist completion of a two- to three-year college program in radiation therapy technology is required , after which you will be certified. Radiation therapy technologists may also be required to join a professional society, depending on where they live.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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