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Radiation therapy

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What is Radiation therapy?

Radiation therapy is one of the main methods used to treat patients with cancer. This course qualifies you to work as a radiation therapist – the health care professional who, together with the other multidisciplinary team members, is responsible for the preparation and delivery of a course of radiation therapy. As a graduate radiation therapist you will be the main point of contact for the patient during the course of their treatment and involved in many aspects of their care during their radiation therapy treatment. As radiation therapy is expanding in Ireland so is the opportunity for role development making this an exciting time to be entering the profession.

Is this the right course for you?

The radiation therapist requires very specialist skills. The development of your clinical skills requires you to be interested in patient care. You will also need to have a keen interest in the field of science. Working as a radiation therapist will also require you to have good interpersonal and technical skills.

Radiation therapy at Trinity College

The Discipline of Radiation Therapy in based in the Trinity Centre for Health Sciences on St. James’s Hospital Campus. You will have classes on both the main College and St. James’s Hospital campuses. The four-year programme is continually evolving to provide you with the necessary academic and practical skills to work in an ever changing healthcare environment. The programme is delivered by experienced and enthusiastic staff that are focused on providing you with a quality learning experience. As an undergraduate student, you will benefit from state-of-the-art facilities including the largest academic radiation therapy localisation and planning laboratory in Europe and a virtual (simulator) radiation therapy treatment unit. In addition to campus-based learning, you will gain extensive practical experience through clinical placements in radiotherapy departments throughout Ireland.

Course content

This four-year honours degree gives you a broad academic base on which to develop the clinical skills of radiation therapy. It qualifies you to analyse, evaluate and make clinical decisions and to initiate, participate in and encourage research in cancer and radiation therapy. There are both theoretical and clinical components to this degree, the emphasis being more on the theoretical component in the first two years and more on the clinical and research component in the last two years. The contact hours are high in this course and the subjects are taught through lectures, laboratory-based practical sessions, workshops, tutorials and clinical placement in the hospital setting.

A significant clinical component is integral to this course. The clinical sites are the radiation therapy departments attached to the St. Luke’s Radiation Oncology Network at St Luke’s; St. James’ and Beaumont Hospitals in Dublin; Cork University Hospital; University College Hospital Galway; the Mater Private Hospital, Dublin; St. Vincent’s Private Hospital, Dublin; the Galway Clinic; Mater Private at Midwestern Regional Hospital, Limerick; UPMC Beacon Clinic; UPMC Whitfield Clinic, Waterford, and the Hermitage Medical Clinic.

The duration of the clinical placement is 4 weeks in Junior Freshman (first) year, 9 weeks in Senior Freshman (second) year, 13 weeks in Junior Sophister (third) year and 15 weeks in Senior Sophister (fourth) year. Part of the clinical placement takes place during the vacation periods, and clinical placement consists of 35 hours per week. Students are placed in radiation therapy departments across the country, and accommodation costs for clinical placement are borne by the student.

The Freshman years

In the Freshman (first and second) years, the course covers the basic sciences – physics, chemistry and biology. You will also study the structure and function of the human body through anatomy, physiology, biochemistry and genetics, and will be introduced to modules in the following areas: psychology, communication, pathology, research methodology and statistics, cancer care, radiation physics and professional attitudes and skills.

A clinical component (clinical placement) will introduce you to radiation therapy and will develop your understanding of the complexities of the cancer patient pathway.

The Junior Freshman year

In the Junior Freshman (first) year, there are approximately 20-30 hours per week in class.

First year subjects will cover the following areas:

  • Biological principles and practices
  • Chemical principles and properties
  • Anatomy 1
  • Physics for radiation therapy 1
  • Principles and practices of cancer care 1
  • Psychology and communication 1
  • Clinical practice (clinical placement) 1

The Senior Freshman year

Second year subjects will cover the following areas:

  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Anatomy 2
  • Physics for radiation therapy 2
  • Principles and practices of cancer care 2
  • Psychology and communication 2
  • Research methodology and statistics
  • Clinical practice (clinical placement) 2

The Sophister years

In the Sophister (third and fourth) years, you will study more specialist subjects that are specifically related to cancer and patient care, and complete a research project in this area.

The Junior Sophister year

Third-year subjects will cover the following areas:

  • Principles and practices of cancer care 3
  • Physics for radiation therapy 3
  • Radiobiology
  • Radiation therapy treatment planning
  • Treatment localisation and verification
  • Research methodology and statistics
  • Clinical practice (clinical placement) 3

The Senior Sophister year

Fourth year subjects will cover the following areas:

  • Radiotherapy in practice
  • Research project
  • Clinical practice (clinical placement) 4

Assessment

This course assesses both the theoretical and clinical subjects by a variety of methods including written end-of-year examinations, continuous assessment, individual and group project work, oral examination, practical exams and case studies. A clinical portfolio and research project are a substantial component of the assessment processes in your final year.

Career opportunities

There is a worldwide need for radiation therapists. The broad scientific content of the degree also means that you will be qualified to start a career in research and development, medical technology, or the marketing of products associated with cancer medicine in particular, and in the health sector generally.

Did you know?

  • Information days are held during the year for students interested in finding out more about radiation therapy. For details of the next information day, please contact Daléne Dougall on: + 353 1 896 3234 or dougallm@tcd.ie
  • Contacting current students: If you would like to chat with a current student on the course please contact Daléne Dougall on: + 353 1 896 3234 or dougallm@tcd.ie

Graduate Profiles: For recent graduate profiles check out the link below: www.medicine.tcd.ie/radiation-therapy/undergraduate/graduate-profile.php

Further information

dougallm@tcd.ie

www.medicine.tcd.ie/radiation_therapy

Tel: + 353 1 896 3234 / 3252

E-mail: dougallm@tcd.ie

Specific Entry Requirements

Leaving CertificateHC3 In one of physics, chemistry, biology, physics/chemistry
Advanced GCE (A-Level)Grade C In one of physics, chemistry or biology
Other EU examination systemsSee www.tcd.ie/Admissions/undergraduate/requirements/matriculation/other/
Students will be required to undergo Garda vetting, see http://www.tcd.ie/Admissions/undergraduate/requirements/garda/ for further details./

Graduate Profile

Yvonne Slowey

The radiation therapist is the main contact person for the patient during their radiotherapy and is involved in all aspects of the treatment process. She/he works closely as a member of the multidisciplinary team. Interpersonal and support skills and an ability to work as a member of a team are essential in every day practice.

My typical working day varies with the department or area in which I am working. On the treatment unit I will be part of the team that treats up to 40 patients a day with pinpoint accuracy and empathy. The number of visits each patient must make can vary from 1 - 40 and they require information and support throughout their particular course of treatment. In other areas I might be preparing patients for treatment by taking images with the CT Scanner or Simulator and ensuring that they are in the best position for the treatment to be delivered. I might also work in Treatment Planning where the best treatment field arrangement for dose delivery is defined for each patient. Other areas include brachytherapy where internal sources are used to deliver treatment.

The most difficult part of my job is lack of time to spend with each patient. As more units become available this should be resolved but in my department in the interim we have set up an Information and Support Service facilitated by a dedicated Radiation Therapist who meets the patient regularly throughout their treatment and gives them additional support and information. In other centres radiation therapists are also involved in the review of patients during their treatment.

The most rewarding part of my job is helping and supporting patients through the radiotherapy process which can be quite daunting for them. During the course of their treatment you develop a close relationship with patients and this is beneficial both to them and to us.

The most frustrating element of my profession is the lack of recognition of the work we do. As a small profession we are often confused with other health professionals and not identified in our own right. I am a member of the radiation therapist committee of the national professional body and through this forum we are working to raise awareness of the profile of the radiation therapist.

Student Profile

Ciara Madden

During my time spent as a freshman, the class had to study the general science subjects; biology chemistry and physics. We were also introduced to the different aspects of the radiation therapy profession. We also got first hand experience of working as a radiation therapist during placement in different hospitals. In order to do this placement we had to complete first aid and manual handling courses organised by the College.

In third year I found that the course is a lot more demanding and specialised. It's more geared towards working in the radiation therapy profession. This is reflected in the subjects that we are studying such as radiobiology, cancer medicine and treatment planning. We are doing these subjects in the School of Radiation Therapy in the Trinity Centre in St. James's Hospital rather than on the main Trinity College campus. A good knowledge of physics would be a great asset for this course.

Longer placement periods must be completed in third and fourth year. This gives students the opportunity the opportunity to visit all the different units in the radiation therapy department. Students can work in different hospitals in the country. This gives them the chance to see how the different departments are run. There is clearly very good variety in this course.

The class size is generally quite small. The total number of students in my class is 24. This makes it quite easy to get to know everyone and to make friends. There is a very friendly atmosphere in my class. A class night out is organised from time to time. Students doing radiation therapy have the opportunity to join the therapy society. The therapy ball takes place every year. There are numerous other clubs and societies which students can join if they wish.

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