What is a Radiation Therapist?

The radiation therapist is a health professional that delivers radiation therapy treatment to patients with cancer. In Nova Scotia, there is a Cancer Center in Halifax and in Sydney. A radiation therapist may work in several areas including;

  • a simulator where patients are marked for treatment
  • the treatment planning area
  • the calculation area
  • the mold room where treatment accessories are made
  • treatment units  where patients receive therapy

In Nova Scotia, radiation therapists are scheduled Monday to Friday days with rotating on call for emergencies after hours and on weekends. Because of the type of work that a radiation therapist does, they must have both the technical knowledge as well as the compassion to work very closely with patients that can range in age from infants to the elderly and from very healthy to gravely ill. A radiation therapist may see the same patient every day for several weeks requiring a therapist to have the ability to build and maintain a positive rapport with patients and their families. Radiation therapists are key members of the cancer treatment team. More than half of all cancer patients receive radiation treatments, which may be given in conjunction with other forms of treatment. They use focused beams of radiation to destroy tumors while minimizing harm to healthy tissues. Alternatively, treatment may involve placing radioactive sources directly into the patient's body. In order to destroy cancerous tissue, radiation therapy involves exposure to higher doses of radiation than are required for diagnostic imaging. It is therefore vital that the radiation be precisely targeted and the patient's exposure carefully monitored.

As part of their professional duty, radiation therapists:

  • Explain procedures and comfort patients.
  • Answer questions as fully as possible.
  • Position patients and equipment correctly.
  • Ensure that proper radiation handling and protection techniques are followed.
  • Monitor patients during the procedure.
  • Provide emotional support and performs patient education

Therapists are also involved in the treatment planning aspects of cancer therapy involving radiation, following the prescription of a physician specializing in cancer treatment (radiation oncologist).
Additional responsibilities include:

  • Perform treatment simulations
  • Taking measurements
  • Constructing and fitting accessory devices
  • Determining radiation doses

Educational Requirements

There are numerous approved radiation therapy programs available in Canada. A full list can be viewed through the provided link. In Nova Scotia there is no program, most Nova Scotia radiation therapists attend a program in Toronto with the clinical portion being offered at the Nova Scotia Cancer Center in Halifax. Prerequisites for acceptance into the program are five first-year university credits, which must include: biology, physics, and math. The next three years are spent in Toronto at the Michener Institute and in Halifax in clinical training. If interested in this program, please click the following link Michener Institute. Upon completion of this degree, you must then write a national entry to practice certification exam. MRTs must be a registrant of this association to work in Nova Scotia as an MRT.