Rochelle Thompson was first inspired to become a radiation therapist after visiting a careers day when she was in Year 12. Her interest was heightened not long after when her grandfather underwent radiation therapy.
Thompson went on to complete a Bachelor of Applied Science (Medical Radiation Science) at Sydney University and has worked at Royal Prince Alfred (RPA) Hospital in Camperdown for four years.
As a radiation therapist, Thompson, 24, works closely with radiation oncologists to administer radiation treatment to cancer patients.
“We’re treating malignant and benign diseases with radiation to alleviate diseases and symptoms and signs of diseases,” she says.
Thompson says radiation therapists work in three areas: simulation and CT, planning and treatment.
“Simulation and CT is the first step for the patient in relation to coming in and seeing us,” she says. “We are responsible for the internal imaging, taking X-rays and using CT scans to pinpoint target areas and what areas need to be avoided.
“With planning, the radiation oncologist defines the treatment and volume for use on the patient. The main aim in planning is to promote the most even distribution and make sure not to give too high a dose to critical sites.
“Treatment is the major role that we have on a day-to-day basis. We see the patient for about six to seven weeks during the treatment stage. We answer questions, comfort the patient, stabilise them for treatment delivery and monitor them while they’re having the treatment.”
Thompson enjoys the teamwork involved in the job; she works closely with radiation oncologists, nurses and medical physicists but says the most rewarding part is interaction with patients.
Over a course of radiation treatment a strong bond develops between therapist and patient.
“The contact is really good because you do see the patient for a long time. It’s just nice to help improve someone’s quality of life.
“The patients become like friends to you because you see them every day for so long.”
How to be a …. radiation therapist
You need to complete a degree in medical radiation science and a year of clinical practice before receiving full accreditation. More information, the University of Sydney School of Medical Radiation Sciences, 93519640 or www.fhs.usyd.edu.au/mrs
By Aimee Brown, The Daily Telegraph, April 29, 2006.