What does a radiation therapist do?

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infectious disease specialist

A radiation therapist is an Allied Health Professional who specialises in using ionising radiation to treat various diseases, usually cancer. They collect relevant patient information and use these details to plan appropriate treatment measures for each patient. Radiation therapists work under the guidance of a Radiation Oncologist in a team of healthcare professionals who care for and treat cancer patients. 

Job Description

The work of a radiation therapist falls into three distinct categories: simulation, planning and treatment.

Simulation involves collecting the relevant data, reading through the patient’s notes and examining tests and radiographic scans such as X-Rays, MRIs and CTs in order to determine the exact spot where the tumour is located.

Planning involves using the collected data to plan the treatment depending on the location and progress of the cancer. This is usually done on a computer. Although the oncologist indicates where the treatment needs to be delivered and what dose of radiation the patient should receive, the radiation therapist decides the best way to aim the radiation at the cancer so that the surrounding normal tissues are not affected. The RT must also take precautions to ensure that the eyes, heart and other sensitive tissues receive as small a dose as possible to limit long-term side effects of the treatment.

Before the treatment, the radiation therapist checks through all of the planning information and make sure all the necessary equipment is prepared and ready in the treatment room.  They then explain the procedure to the patient and answer any questions. During the treatment, they document all details such as the equipment used, the patient’s position, the location of the tattoo dots and all other relevant measurements.

After the treatment, they assess the patient’s reaction to the medication mad provide advice regarding possible side effects and how to alleviate these. They are also responsible for providing patients with the necessary support right through the treatment, listening to their emotional concerns and easing their anxieties.

Education and training

There are several different pathways you can choose from if you want to become a radiation therapist in Australia. If you are still in school, it is advisable to take subjects such as maths, physics and biology in addition to an English subject.

Most universities offer a full-time, 3-year undergraduate programme or a 2-year masters programme. All undergraduate and postgraduate courses include both academic and clinical components.

After completion of the 2 or 3 year programme, you will have to complete a 1-year National Professional Development Program (NPDP).  The NPDP focuses on helping students achieve clinical proficiency, building on the knowledge and skills acquired during academic study. The University of South Australia offers a 4-year undergraduate degree. Completion of an NPDP is not required if you enrol in this programme.

Spending time helping or caring for people, work experience in a hospital or at a medical placement or being involved in an organisation that works with cancer patients will all give you great insight into this career.



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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives, and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.

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