Radiation Therapy Program

K. Patricia Bouweraerts
Radiation Therapy Abstract Illustration

A new Allied Health transfer program—a pathway toward the career of Radiation Therapist—begins at Truckee Meadows Community College in Fall Semester, made possible by a partnership between TMCC and the College of Southern Nevada (CSN).

For prospective students interested in the program, an information session took place on April 26 at TMCC. Brooke Chapman, CSN Clinical Director and Instructor for the Radiation Therapy Program, presented an introduction to the field of radiation therapy, requirements to enter the program, and gave information about the career.

“Most of the prerequisites can be completed at TMCC," he said. "It’s a limited entry program, as many of the health science programs are at the College of Southern Nevada. We are happy to answer any questions.”

Chapman said that no prior health field training is required to enter the program.

“The point system used for selecting applicants into the limited entry program does award points for previous medical or health volunteer experience,” he said. “Once admitted, students with a health-related background may have a slight comprehension edge in the classroom, but it’s not usually significant. The program is designed to provide the knowledge to pass the national licensing exam and apply for a position as an entry level therapist.”

Radiation therapists work in hospitals, clinics, cancer centers, and private offices. They may also work in research, education, or management. They typically earn more than $70,000 a year in Nevada, according to Nevada Occupational Employment Statistics (OES).

What Type of Personality Thrives as a Radiation Therapist

“Generally, radiation therapists are extroverts,” Chapman said. “They can get satisfaction from catching details and finishing tasks in a timely manner. Simultaneously, they like people and want to relieve suffering. Many have expressed to me they are proud to be a radiation therapist because it provides a service to humanity.”

A radiation therapist also enjoys routine.

“Routine can be good for patient safety because changes or variations are a red flag,” he added. “Further, most free-standing clinics have a regular daily schedule of patients that doesn't vary a great deal. Patients are usually scheduled at the same time on Monday to Friday.”

Hospitals and comprehensive oncology centers may have a greater variation in daily schedules.

“They will still follow a schedule, but other hospital services may alter the daily routine somewhat,” he added. “If the idea of working in an emergency room excites someone, then radiation therapy probably isn't for them.”

Both Classroom and Hands-On Learning

Training consists of classroom instruction, simulation practice, and hands-on supervised clinical experience.

“We have arrangements with radiation oncology centers in the Reno area where students will get hands-on experience with actual patients,” Chapman said.

Up to fifty percent of the radiation therapy program is directed to treating cancer patients in the clinical setting.

“Radiation treatments are almost exclusively focused on cancer,” he added. ”However, there are a couple of things that are non-cancerous that are treated with radiation. One non-cancerous treatment is for Keloids. Keloids are the scar tissue that some people develop following surgery or an injury. Radiation can prevent the scar tissue from forming.”

Another treatable illness relates to some pituitary gland tumors.

“Sometimes the pituitary gland will begin uncontrolled growth,” he added. “It's generally considered to be benign or non-malignant (not cancerous), but can cause problems due to its increased size pushing on surrounding tissue. Those are the exceptions, and not very common.”

Upon graduation, students are eligible to sit for the national American Registry of Radiologic Technology (ARRT) board certification exam. They may then work in radiation therapy anywhere in the world.

For more information, please contact Toni Hippert in the TMCC Sciences Division at 775-674-7657, or view an informational video by CSN about Radiation Therapy.