How stressful is being a radiation therapist

Radiation therapy is a critical treatment for many forms of cancer. To ensure patients receive the right treatment for their specific needs, many facilities hire radiation therapists. Due to the nature of this career, there are challenges you’ll need to overcome if you choose this path. Yet, with the support of Cambridge, you’ll be able to enter the field with confidence.

Is It Hard to Be a Radiation Therapist?

Radiation therapy can be challenging, just like any other medical career. Yet, most of the challenges can be resolved through education and experience. Let’s go over some of the challenges you may experience as you enter the field.

Education Requirements

Radiation therapy requires a specific skill set. Your main responsibility will be to apply ionizing radiation therapy to your patients. You must know how to prepare the correct dosage of treatment, how to position patients properly and how to monitor therapy success.

Radiation therapy also requires you to know human anatomy and how the body works with radiation treatment. The subject matter can often be challenging to understand at first, especially for students new to the medical field.

Emotional Stress

As a radiation therapist, you’ll be able to support patients struggling with cancer. And while this is a rewarding aspect of the career, it can also be an emotional one. Difficult diagnoses and even patient loss can cause emotional stress.

Learning Curve

After graduation, you’ll be able to obtain your first entry-level radiation therapy job. It’s now that you’ll experience a learning curve as you adjust to being in the field and working in a new environment.

Set Yourself Up for Career Success With a Degree From Cambridge

Cambridge College will help prepare you to meet these challenges head-on with confidence. Our Radiation Therapy program includes the subject matter you need for career success, including:

  • Radiation therapy physics
  • Radiation therapy patient care
  • Treatment planning
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Medical terminology

You’ll learn radiation therapy by attending expert lectures. Plus, you’ll receive hands-on training through clinical externships at local healthcare facilities. Once you’re ready to obtain your first position after graduation, we’ll help you find the perfect job through our job placement services.

Learn More About Our Radiation Therapy Program Today

Cambridge College offers students wishing to enter the medical field our Radiation Therapy program. If you’re ready to learn more about the program or have questions, give our team a call at 877-206-4279 or send us a message today. We can’t wait to help you achieve your goals.

Radiation therapy is used as part of cancer treatment to keep malignant cells from spreading. But despite its potential benefits, it poses risks to both radiation therapists and cancer patients. Medical professionals who work in this field are often exposed to high doses of radiation and must take the necessary precautions to protect themselves. Emotional stress, depression and burnout all come with the job.

The Role of Radiation Therapists

Radiation therapists work closely with cancer patients in hospitals and private clinics. Their primary role is to administer the correct amount of radiation and adjust the treatment as needed. Depending on their qualifications, they may also interpret test results, prescribe medications and educate patients about their condition and treatment options. These medical professionals are also responsible for operating and maintaining radiotherapy equipment, such as brachytherapy units and linear accelerators.

In this role, you must collaborate with oncologists, medical physicists and other health professionals. Therefore, it’s important to have strong communication skills and follow exact instructions. This job also requires physical stamina, as you may need to lift or turn patients, operate heavy equipment and stand for long hours. As far as education goes, you’ll need an associate degree or bachelor’s degree to become a radiation therapist. Most states also require professional certification or licensure, points out the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Some employers prefer to hire candidates certified by the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT). The organization offers certification programs in radiation therapy, sonography, radiography and other imaging techniques. But first, you must earn an undergraduate degree in radiologic technology and complete an ARRT-approved course, according to Cambridge College of Healthcare and Technology. If you take these steps and land a full-time job, expect to earn around ​$86,850​ per year, as reported by the BLS. However, it’s not uncommon to make ​$112,000​ or more, depending on your skills, location and work experience.

Stress and Burnout Are Common

As you would expect, radiation therapists are subject to physical and emotional stress due to the nature of their work. If you pursue this career path, you must assist cancer patients and their loved ones. It’s your responsibility to answer their questions, tell them what to expect and be honest about their odds of recovery. Chances are, they will experience stress, anxiety, depression, mood changes or anger – and their emotions may affect you in one way or another.

Another problem among radiation therapists is job burnout. These health professionals are often overwhelmed by heavy workloads and staffing shortages, which can affect their work-life balance. Plus, they must keep up with the latest technologies and adapt to change, notes the Society for Radiation Oncology Administrators. Emotional exhaustion, monotony and poor job satisfaction are common, too. Over time, job burnout can lead to diminished productivity and health issues, such as depression and fatigue.

Limit Your Exposure to Radiation

Last but not least, there’s a risk of exposure to radiation in the workplace. A 2018 review featured in the journal ​Occupational Medicine and Health Affairs​ states that radiation exposure may contribute to cancer, cataracts and DNA damage. Even low levels of radiation can cause gene mutations, premature aging, leukemia and other health problems in the long run. Additionally, bacteria and other pathogens can spread from cancer patients to therapists and cause infections or life-threatening diseases.

Considering these risks, it’s crucial to take precautions to limit your exposure to radiation and biohazards. For example, you must always wash your hands before and after touching a patient, wear disposable gloves and make sure the equipment operates properly.

Also, listen to your body and avoid pushing yourself past your limits. This kind of work is associated with back pain and cumulative trauma disorders, such as tendonitis. Stay on the safe side and ask for help when lifting heavy machines or handling patients who cannot walk or move on their own.

Radiation therapists play a vital role in the treatment of many types of cancer. They administer critical radiation treatment to shrink cancer cells. And due to the nature of the radiation therapy career, there will be moments of stress. 

The good news is that the rewarding parts of the career far outweigh the challenges. Plus, a Radiation Therapy program can help prepare you for the field.

The Responsibilities of a Radiation Therapist

As a radiation therapist, your days will be spent in the throes of patient care and radiation therapy planning. Some of the responsibilities you can expect include:

  • Administer accurate radiation treatment: You’ll need to perform calculations and prepare radiation equipment to administer accurate doses of radiation. Too much or too little will directly impact patient outcomes.
  • Determine proper treatment area: Before starting treatment, you’ll need to determine where the radiation should be applied in the body. You’ll then need to properly position radiation equipment for treatment.
  • Support patients and their families through cancer therapy: Perhaps one of the most challenging parts of being a radiation therapist, you must support patients, answer their questions and do what it takes to make them comfortable.
  • Maintain radiation therapy equipment: After performing therapy, you must perform routine maintenance on radiation equipment and ensure it’s working properly for each patient.

A Good Education Can Prepare You for the Radiation Therapy Field

While some of these responsibilities are technical, others are emotionally exhausting. Just like any other medical profession, there will surely be moments of stress for you as a radiation therapist. Yet, an in-depth Radiation Therapy program can deliver the tools you need to make it through those moments.

Cambridge’s Radiation Therapy program includes the subject matter you need for success, including:

  • Anatomy and Physiology
  • Health Science
  • Radiation Therapy Physics
  • Radiation Therapy Patient Care
  • Treatment Planning

This means you’ll learn how to best support patients going through cancer. You’ll also learn the ins and outs of preparing radiation therapy treatments that work. You’ll then develop your hands-on skills through a clinical externship, so you can start your career with confidence.

Start Your Radiation Therapy Career With Cambridge

Even though a career as a radiation therapist can be challenging, it’s more than worth it. Allow Cambridge to prepare you for the field through our Radiation Therapy program. To learn more about the program or to apply today, give us a call at 877-206-4279 or send us a message.

Median Salary$86,850Unemployment RateN/ANumber of Jobs1,600

Radiation therapists carry out radiation treatment plans created by radiation oncologists and dosimetrists. These professionals work with CAT scans, X-rays and Cone beam computed tomography before radiation is even administered. These technologies enable them to accurately position cancer patients so that the radiation is administered precisely. They also use immobilization devices so that each time a patient comes in for radiation, they can replicate the patient’s position for the sake of accurate treatment. Radiation therapists are experts on computer technologies, which will appropriate the correct doses of radiation to the radiation machine. They constantly monitor their patients, and they detail their treatment.

Dorothy Hargrove, chief radiation therapist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, says she became interested in the field while she was earning her associate degree. Early in her program, she realized that general X-ray wasn’t for her. “I didn’t like that I didn’t get to know my patients very well,” Hargrove says. But four months before she was due to graduate, Hargrove took an elective course in radiation therapy that changed her life. “I watched therapists who knew their patients by name,” Hargrove says. “You got to know patients and be a part of their recovery, and that was so different than general X-ray. It was love at first patient.”

These days, Hargrove manages a team of radiation therapists. She’s worked as a radiation therapist for more than 22 years, treating cancer patients with radiation. “It’s a perfect balance between patient care and great technology,” she says.

Earlier cancer diagnoses and new technologies are driving the need for more radiation therapists. The aging population is also precipitating this demand, since the risk of cancer increases with age.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 9.1 percent employment growth for radiation therapists between 2020 and 2030. In that period, an estimated 1,600 jobs should open up.

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