What is radiation therapy technology?
Radiation therapy technology is a health care discipline which utilizes ionizing radiation for the treatment of malignant diseases. The radiation therapy technology degree program in at UAB is designed to prepare students for the technical, theoretical, and psychological aspects of this career.
What does a radiation therapist do?
A radiation therapist (RT) has the unique opportunity to blend knowledge and skills of mathematics, science, and psychology in every day work. Some of the functions of a RT include:
What is the typical work setting for a RT?
- operate sophisticated radiation equipment to outline the extent of tumors and treat them according to the physician's order;
- assist in designing the patient treatment plan through the use of hand or computer produced computations;
- recognize when a patient is having additional medical problems which require physician attention; and
- provide psychological support for patients who are dealing with the stress of the illness.
Most radiation oncology therapy facilities are located in hospitals with at least 300 beds (larger hospitals are more likely to have a full-service radiation oncology department). Additionally, cancer treatment clinics may also provide radiation oncology services. Therapists usually work with a team of health professionals, including radiation oncologists (doctors), physicists, dosimetrists, and nurses. Together they can work to best meet the overall needs of the patients.
What career opportunities exist for RTs?
The field of radiation oncology has undergone dramatic growth in the past decade due to its effectiveness in treating cancer. Radiation is now used to treat over one-half of all cancer patients at some point in the management of the patient's disease. This growth has created a strong demand for additional qualified therapists in all areas of practice: staff technology, dosimetry, physics, education, and management. Non-traditional positions are also being created to meet demands brought about by technological changes in the field.
Currently there are about 12,457 Registered Therapists in the US with abundant job opportunities. The average annual starting salary for a staff radiation therapist in Alabama ranges from $50,000 to $55,000. Following adequate staff experience, some RTs wish to seek positions of greater responsibility in such areas as physics, dosimetry, education, or management. Salaries for these positions vary according to the scope of responsibility and degree/experience requirements, with salaries ranging from $50,000 to $80,000.
How is UAB’s Program Structured?
The Bachelor of Science in Radiation Therapy Technology degree program is designed as a four-year program. It consists of two to three years of pre-requisite courses which can be taken at UAB or another university or junior college, and 1 1/2 years of professional courses in the School of Health Professions (5 semesters for non-radiographers and 4 semesters for radiographers).
Students must apply for acceptance into the professional program by March 1st. Non-radiographers begin the program in the fall while radiographers begin the program each spring. Students are accepted on a competitive basis based on grade point average and a personal interview.
The first half of the program is dedicated to didactic coursework and the last two semesters are primarily devoted to clinical education. During the final two semesters, the student will take the remaining didactic courses online. The program utilizes several clinical institutions, including some of the finest radiation oncology facilities in the state. Graduates are eligible to take the national certification examination.
What are the strengths of the UAB radiation therapy program?
The typical student is eager, academically capable, dedicated, and strongly motivated to help others. The highly qualified faculty and clinical instructors are committed to preparing students for a vital role in this dynamic field. The high standards of clinical practice, strong academic program, and hard-working students and faculty combine to make a program of excellence.
What are the unique aspects of this program?
UAB's radiation therapy program is one of 22 accredited baccalaureate degree programs in the United States (accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology).
Small class sizes enable faculty and clinical instructors to give students more personal attention. The dedicated students and loyal graduates represent the program's best form of advertisement. The radiation therapy program is known for its high academic standards, excellent clinical education component, and comprehensive curriculum.
What is it like to work with cancer patients?
Prospective students frequently have misconceptions about cancer or wonder what it is like to work with cancer patients. First, cancer is not contagious. You cannot get cancer from simply being around people who have cancer. Second, since cancer is a serious disease, many people expect it would be depressing to work with cancer patients. While it is true that many people do die from cancer, most patients are helped by the treatments, even if they are not cured.
Like almost anything, working with cancer patients has its ups and downs. But patients share hugs and joy just as freely as their concerns and tears. This mutual sharing helps to form a healthy and special patient-therapies relationship. Most therapists find that they more easily remember the joys of working with cancer patients than the sad moments. Their desire to help others regain good health is usually a strong career motivation.
Is it safe working with machines that produce radiation?
Undeniably, there is some very minimal risk involved in this type of work. However, radiation therapists typically receive such a negligible amount of radiation exposure that precise figures cannot be determined even with a sensitive measuring device. It may also be helpful to know that many federal and state regulations exist which provide for a safe environment for personnel and patients.
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