Radiation Therapist Job Description

What Does It Take to Be a Radiation Therapist?

Radiation therapists are specially trained health professionals who assist physicians in treating patients with several diseases, primarily cancer. Most are part of an oncology team, all focused on the health of the patient. They work with patients, radiation therapy equipment, and other team members.

Radiation therapy was developed shortly after the discovery of X-rays and radium in 1895 and 1898 respectively. This powerful find changed the outlook of those with cancer and has continued to grow as a field of medicine with the advancement of medical science and technology. New treatment methods are constantly being developed in this growing field.

Radiation Therapist Job - Nature of the Work

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A radiation therapist can expect to work in a hospital or outpatient facility such as a cancer treatment center or outpatient surgical clinic. While the hours are primarily standard business hours, there is the possibility of shift work or weekends in hospitals or treatment facilities.

The radiation therapist is usually a part of an oncology team consisting of the oncologist, the radiation oncologist, the oncology nurse, the radiation physicist, and the dosimetrist. The team members work together to ensure the patient’s safety during treatment while they work towards the best possible outcome for the patient’s health.

The duties of a radiation therapist include:

  • Checking the machines used in radiation therapy to make sure they are in proper working order and safe for patient use
  • Knowing and following all safety policy and procedures to protect both the patient and themselves from overexposure to radiation
  • Explaining treatment plans to the patient
  • Answering patient’s questions pertaining to radiation therapy and treatments
  • X-raying patients to ensure that the therapy is executed in the exact location it is needed
  • Confirming dosage in computer program
  • Operating machines that administer the radiation therapy
  • Monitoring patients for reactions to radiation
  • Keeping detailed patient records

Education, Certification, and Licensure

Radiation therapy is a specialized field and it has requirements for education, certification, and licensure.

An accredited Radiation Therapist training and certification program is required, and usually, at least an associate degree or bachelor’s degree is preferred.

The specialized courses will teach radiation therapy practices and procedures along with theory, and the basic courses will include anatomy and physiology, computer science, physics, and algebra among others.

Most states require licensure and certification after training, but the requirements vary from state to state. In order to be licensed, besides graduating from an accredited radiation therapy program, the radiation therapist must also be certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologist (ARRT).

In order to be certified by the ARRT, the therapist must observe ARRT standards of ethics and pass their certification exam which includes patient care and education, treatment planning and delivery, radiation specific protection practices and quality control, and clinical theory in radiation oncology.

Do You Have the Qualities to Be a Radiation Therapist?

The qualities that a radiation therapist must possess to be happy and successful in this career would include:

  • Detail oriented
  • Enjoy working with people
  • Compassionate
  • Possess the stamina to be on their feet for long periods of time or at various times throughout the day
  • The physical ability to assist patients who may need help sitting, standing, or walking
  • Comfortable and adept with technology
  • An aptitude for math and science

Salary Expectations for the Radiation Therapist

The outlook for the field of radiation therapy is good with an expectation of job growth by up to 20% in the next 10-15 years based on the growing elderly population and advanced technologies.

Radiation therapists can expect a generous income in the range of $58,000 – $100,000 based on multiple sources, with the median range currently at about $78,000. Expected salary will vary based on location, facility, experience, education, and specialization. The Salary Comparison and Salary Calculator Tool at www.salary.com can assist you to evaluate the average salary for specific variables.

Find current job opportunities for Radiation Therapists by visiting indeed.com.

A Must Read

Customers of a medical office or treatment center are patients that expect the highest quality of care and some may be in the midst of a medical crisis which requires delicate handling. Not only is it important for the staff to have certain professional skills and strengths, it is imperative that they understand that patient lives are reliant on the quality of their work.

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