Dosimetrists are allied health professionals who specialize in calculating radiation treatments that deliver the most lethal dose of radiation to precise parts of the body while promoting the fewest side effects to patients’ healthy organs. Medical dosimetrists are vital members of radiation oncology teams and work closely with medical physicists, radiation oncologists, oncology nurses, and radiation therapists to help care for cancer patients. Continued advancements in cancer treatment planning perpetually increase the demand for qualified dosimetrists. The diversity and ever-changing technology involved in the job helps ensure dosimetrists achieve lifelong career satisfaction.
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What does a dosimetrist do?
Dosimetrists use specialized computer software to create radiation plans to treat cancerous diseases utilizing internal and external radiation sources. Using their in-depth expertise, they generate, measure, and verify radiation dose calculations and distributions for high-level treatment procedures while designing radiation field arrangements that reduce exposure to critical patient structures. Some of the many tasks they may perform include:
Collaborating with radiation oncology teams to develop radiation treatment plans
Calculating the amount or extent of radiation per session per prescribed therapy
Assisting during preplanning CT, MRI, and other medical imaging
Executing simulations for tumor localizations using CT, MRI, and other imaging methods
Verifying the mathematical accuracy of all calculations
Creating reference images and localization markers for treatment delivery
Developing requirements for patient immobilization devices and positioning aides
Developing beam modifying device plans to ensure safe and effective radiation delivery
Using radiation monitoring devices to measure the amount of radioactivity in patients
Recording administered radiation doses and other patient information
Educating patients on treatment plans, treatment reactions, and post-treatment care
Performing calibrations and other system checks on treatment planning computers
Fabricating patient immobilization devices and beam modifying devices
Providing dosimetry training to students, residents, and therapists
Conducting radiation oncology-related research
Shipping and receiving radioactive materials
Where do dosimetrists work?
Dosimetrists typically specialize in one or more types of radiation, including external beam radiation, brachytherapy, photon therapy, and proton therapy. They often work in hospitals in oncology departments or in specialized cancer institutions. Dosimetrists also may find employment with cutting-edge research and development facilities dedicated to improving how cancer is treated. They may choose to continue their education and go into teaching to train new dosimetrists or take on a leadership role in a radiation oncology team.
What skills make a good dosimetrist?
Good medical dosimetrists have high aptitudes for math and physics and in-depth knowledge of anatomy, physiology, radiobiology, radiation safety, and the safe and effective operation of radiation oncology treatment equipment and machines. They also possess specialized knowledge of current radiation therapy methods, techniques, principles, and procedures. Successful dosimetrists work well independently and as part of a team and have innate abilities to multitask while staying organized and focused even when working in high-volume facilities. They have strong oral and written communication and interpersonal skills to effectively facilitate information exchanges with nervous patients and all levels of the healthcare team. Good dosimetrists are highly adaptable and have superior critical thinking and problem-solving skills to continuously maintain a safe environment for patients and staff.
How to become a Travel Dosimetrist
Becoming a medical dosimetrist begins with education. The first step is earning a Bachelor of Science degree in biological sciences, radiologic sciences, medical dosimetry, or a related field. Although dosimetry requires a considerable amount of specialized knowledge, dosimetrists weren’t required to be licensed or certified as of May 2021. However, many employers prefer or even require dosimetry applicants to be certified through the Medical Dosimetrist Certification Board (MDCB).
To earn MDCB Medical Dosimetry Certification, aspiring dosimetrists must graduate from a medical dosimetry program administered by a college, university, or hospital that’s accredited by the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT). Program graduates must pass a certification exam. Most travel dosimetrist employers also require experience as a medical dosimetrist in a clinical setting and often prefer or require experience using specific pieces of equipment and/or software programs related to dosimetry.