Need2KnowWhy

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I'm accepted into a couple of 1 year certificate dosimetry training programs. However, over the past months I find I'm still struggling with the final decision regarding which choice is best. I'd like to see what other people's thoughts are regarding this decision. Here's the deal...

On the one hand I can attend a good program at a comprehensive cancer facility for reasonable cost. That is about $30k total in student loans, with good living conditions. One the other hand, I could pursue an option that allows exposure (forgive the pun) to proton therapy experience, offers rotations at other well known facilities, but requires significant communiting in heavy traffic and would cost $20k MORE than the earlier mentioned program.

I'm not sure this is worth the added cost and hassel for a simple dosimetry job. Also, I don't know that the proton therapy experience at a dosimetrist level is necessarily useful. Perhaps for a radiation oncologist, or medical physicist, that experience immediately translates to career opportunity, but I wonder why the existing proton therapy sites wouldn't simply train their dosimetrists from within.

Forgive me for not providing more details. Since I haven't decided what is the best choice, I thought it best to be vague in my description of the programs.

Appreciate your input.
Regards....
 

koolaidkid

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i don't know squat since i'm just starting up internship. someone with more experience who might actually be on the hiring side might offer better advice. i'd say just fork out the $30k. The extra cash for protons is probably not worth it, at least at this point.
 

koolaidkid

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hello....it seems like there's no lack of advice for prospective residents / jr fac / attendings, however, I think someone should try to help this person out with some real advice since the dosimetrists are frequently the backbone of what we do (at least it seems like that from my naive perspective). my advice is fairly worthless here (and also in general). or at least PM the person and suggest someone they could speak to.
 

G'ville Nole

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I'm accepted into a couple of 1 year certificate dosimetry training programs. However, over the past months I find I'm still struggling with the final decision regarding which choice is best. I'd like to see what other people's thoughts are regarding this decision. Here's the deal...

On the one hand I can attend a good program at a comprehensive cancer facility for reasonable cost. That is about $30k total in student loans, with good living conditions. One the other hand, I could pursue an option that allows exposure (forgive the pun) to proton therapy experience, offers rotations at other well known facilities, but requires significant communiting in heavy traffic and would cost $20k MORE than the earlier mentioned program.

I'm not sure this is worth the added cost and hassel for a simple dosimetry job. Also, I don't know that the proton therapy experience at a dosimetrist level is necessarily useful. Perhaps for a radiation oncologist, or medical physicist, that experience immediately translates to career opportunity, but I wonder why the existing proton therapy sites wouldn't simply train their dosimetrists from within.

Forgive me for not providing more details. Since I haven't decided what is the best choice, I thought it best to be vague in my description of the programs.

Appreciate your input.
Regards....
Option A seems to be the best. While proton dosimetry may be a nice feather in your cap, realize that opportunities to practice proton dosimetry are extremely limited, and probably not worth the extra $20k out of pocket, plus extra gas at the current prices. As long as the comprehensive cancer center offers a solid CMD program, it will give you all of the skills you need to land a good job in the field.

Just my $0.02.
 
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Need2KnowWhy

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Option A seems to be the best. While proton dosimetry may be a nice feather in your cap, realize that opportunities to practice proton dosimetry are extremely limited, and probably not worth the extra $20k out of pocket, plus extra gas at the current prices. As long as the comprehensive cancer center offers a solid CMD program, it will give you all of the skills you need to land a good job in the field.

Just my $0.02.
Thanks G'ville Nole. Although I will be disappointed to pass up the option, I am inclined to agree with your assessment and will likely pursue the mainstream/poor man's approach unless stongly persuaded otherwise. :oops:

Also, thanks to the KoolAidKid. I appreciate your tenacity.
 

3dtp

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Option A seems to be the best. While proton dosimetry may be a nice feather in your cap, realize that opportunities to practice proton dosimetry are extremely limited, and probably not worth the extra $20k out of pocket, plus extra gas at the current prices. As long as the comprehensive cancer center offers a solid CMD program, it will give you all of the skills you need to land a good job in the field.

Just my $0.02.
Agree with this. I was teaching faculty at a program that cranked out excellent BSRTT, dosimetrists and physicists. Proton dosimetry you will learn if you need it. In looking for a program I think you are best served by looking for a program that will have a excellence in its physics and a strong clinical program. A significant part of your training should be learning to understand that all those pretty red green and blue isodose lines are not necessarily completely true and the physics reasons behind that.

Second, you need to be a safe dosimetrist so some exposure to biology, anatomy and why it's a dumb idea to send a beam through the orbit in an IMRT plan even though it gives such pretty red, green and blue lines on the target.

Third, you need a program that will expose you to a wide variety of cases in a wide variety of settings. Even though flouroscopic simulatiors are going the way of the dodo bird, it would be nice to see how the things work, how to be comfortable determining separations and doing a hand calc for those late very late Friday PM cord compressions that seem to show up with regularity and the CT scanner is tied up on other cases.

I'd look at the overall curriculum for the program and make sure that you get a well balanced program. If protons are going to be your thing, then your life may be simpler because the big thing that makes them different is they stop....somewhere. With a solid fundamental grounding you should be able to learn this quickly.
 
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Need2KnowWhy

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Thank you for your input also.
Regards,



"Counsel in many is wisdom".
 

radonc

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The extra $$$ you invest in your education by going to a big name program (MDACC) will likely give you a leg up in the field. why? you will have your choice of jobs in any part of the US and can always fall back on your degree.

its like people who choose to go to harvard (for undergrad, med, mba)...its harvard. the degree is impressive and its an instant validation of your 'ability'.

not only that, you get a chance to work at the premier institution in our field, alongside well respected physicians and physicists. there is something to say about that.
 
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Need2KnowWhy

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Yes, I do believe there is truth in what you are saying. However in this particualar case, the comprehensive medical center's program is the one that cost less than the other program that provided the rotation in proton. That school has a "name" too. And this is why I've been having a tough time making the decision.

I'm confident both programs are respected. I'm just considering the cost and hassel.... as I explained in the first post, is it worth it.

Regards and thanks,
 

TunedToStatic

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I don't intend to hijack this thread, but I have a similar question regarding a dosimetry program. I am looking into Thomas Jefferson University, and there are two options available to me: A 1-year accelerated track for Dosimetry, or a 2 Year track for both Radiation Therapy and Dosimetry. The 2 year track would be, obviously, twice the tuition. Would there be any benefit to being certified as both a radiation therapist and a dosimetrist? It seems that many dosimetry programs, while they started as continuing education for Rad Therapists, are transitioning to stand alone programs. Is the job market reflecting this as well, or is there still an overlap in responsibilities that would make multi-certification a better bet?
 
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Need2KnowWhy

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Something you might investigate with Jefferson is whether your clinical rotations would actually be at Jefferson. When I interviewed in this past Spring, I discovered they needed partnered sites to provide you with the needed clinicals = long commute. I was put on a waiting list which was ok because I wasn't seriously interested in Jefferson largely due to the tuition. Although I should say that I know of someone is attending another one of their programs and it was reported as top notch. However, her clinicals were on site.

Then yesterday (Aug. 14th) Jefferson called to see if I was still available. Fortunatly, I just move into Texas where I am attending another dosimetry program. As an aside, I asked Jefferson what the commute time to the dosimetry clinical site would be? They explained 1 hour, and I presume that meant one way.

A real hassel for the amount of tuition one is charge... in my opinion. But one does what one must.
 

Mulletfluf

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I don't intend to hijack this thread, but I have a similar question regarding a dosimetry program. I am looking into Thomas Jefferson University, and there are two options available to me: A 1-year accelerated track for Dosimetry, or a 2 Year track for both Radiation Therapy and Dosimetry. The 2 year track would be, obviously, twice the tuition. Would there be any benefit to being certified as both a radiation therapist and a dosimetrist? It seems that many dosimetry programs, while they started as continuing education for Rad Therapists, are transitioning to stand alone programs. Is the job market reflecting this as well, or is there still an overlap in responsibilities that would make multi-certification a better bet?
I worked as both a dosimetrist and a radiation therapist prior to going to medical school. Traditionally most dosimetrists come from a therapy background. Having been a therapist prior to doing dosimetry did help when planning - I felt I was a bit more conscious of potential issues (i.e patient positioning, field placement, shifts, possible collisions, etc). However that being said both tracks produce equally competent dosimetrists.

In regards to the current job market - once you get the CMD you don't go back to treating patients in most instances. If you work at a small center (1-2 machines) then you might be asked to help out if they are short one day if your dual certified. I would say that the job market is much more open for dosimetrists than therapists with more opportunity in private industry as well.

I would discuss these issues with the program director or other dosimetrists also.
 

pele_06

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Dosimetry is a great field. Currently, I am doing my training in radiation therapy in Canada at the Princess Margret Hospital in Toronto. The system is a little different then the United States though. We as radiation therapist actually carry out the dosimetry aspect also, which is not the case in the U.S. From spending few months on the treatment floor, then doing another few months in treatment planning (dosimetry), I have learned that it is important to have radiation therapy background. Knowing why not to angle a beam from one side or knowing what type of information will be needed on a reference image which will be used by the radiation therapist to image match, can only be gained IF you yourself have seen it. As a dosimetrist, you can put a plan together that is perfect in distribution, BUT, if you don't have that radiation therapy background, you could possible be doing it by reducing the efficiency in actually delivering the treatment. Here in Canada, we must first work as radiation therapists for couple years, then we can enter dosimetry, just because we need that experience on the treatment floor to be able to judge what is possible or not.
 

Permonicek

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I'm not sure this is worth the added cost and hassel for a simple dosimetry job. Also, I don't know that the proton therapy experience at a dosimetrist level is necessarily useful. Perhaps for a radiation oncologist, or medical physicist, that experience immediately translates to career opportunity, but I wonder why the existing proton therapy sites wouldn't simply train their dosimetrists from within.
Things I have been hearing is that shortage of proton dosimetrists is potentially going to be a significant problem. If (and it is an if) all the proton facilities that are scheduled to come online actually do, they will need people to know how to do proton physcis and plans. Learning it from scratch ("train their dosimetrists from within") will not be ideal, since the people doing the training (the physicists) are going to be in a similar shortage.

I would say it depends on your time horizon and goals. Proton therapy is clearly coming, and I suspect being able to do proton dosimetry will be highly sought after, highly rewarded and pretty intelectually stimulating, if that's your goal. But you will probably need to relocaste. If dosimetry is just a waystation, or you plan to just get a job at the local radonc practice, then protons aren't worth it.
 
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dosimetry

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Dosimetry is a great field. Currently, I am doing my training in radiation therapy in Canada at the Princess Margret Hospital in Toronto. The system is a little different then the United States though. We as radiation therapist actually carry out the dosimetry aspect also, which is not the case in the U.S. From spending few months on the treatment floor, then doing another few months in treatment planning (dosimetry), I have learned that it is important to have radiation therapy background. Knowing why not to angle a beam from one side or knowing what type of information will be needed on a reference image which will be used by the radiation therapist to image match, can only be gained IF you yourself have seen it. As a dosimetrist, you can put a plan together that is perfect in distribution, BUT, if you don't have that radiation therapy background, you could possible be doing it by reducing the efficiency in actually delivering the treatment. Here in Canada, we must first work as radiation therapists for couple years, then we can enter dosimetry, just because we need that experience on the treatment floor to be able to judge what is possible or not.


Totally agree. In order to design a treatment plan that actually WORKS, you need to have extensive knowledge in relational anatomy, oncology, & physics. I do notice that even the MDCB is trying to recruit people with biological or physical sciences major into dosimetry and the profession is becoming more & more distinct from radiation therapy. This might be their plan to "elevate the profession" & recruit more people to solve the shortage, but there are certainly many flaws to the system.

I have heard from an American radiation therapist (who went into dental afterwards) that many of these graduates who weren't RTs had trouble with designing the right treatment plans (ie. critical structures, etc). In Canada, dosimetrists (or sr. rad therapists/treatment planners) are probably not involved in calibration & other physics oriented tasks (from what I've heard, med.phys. are the ones doing it), but apparently in the States, dosimetrists are assigned to calibrate the machine, play with the ion chambers & TLD, which are pure physics tasks. Thus I'm thinking that maybe in the States many of these CMDs who had physics background instead of RT are being assigned with more pure physics tasks initially while being trained on the job to get a better understanding of different kinds of cancers & the human body, while the CMDs with RT backgrounds are being assigned with more treatment plans.

I'm from Ontario & currently you need to have a university degree in RT in order to practice in Ontario (other Canadian provinces are following this route as well). In my program, about half of the professional courses are physics oriented, including radiation physics, biophysics, medical physics, & dosimetry; the other half of the courses are radiation therapy oriented, including anatomy, pathology, & oncology (treatment planning courses are probably half & half?). And we also have a year of basic sciences & a few ethics & patient care courses (intro bio, chem, psych, phys, & others). Almost all of our courses are prerequisites, and we are being constantly overloaded with more than 5 courses per semester. In fact, our program is acutally 5 years long which includes 3 semesters of clinical practicum.
 
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Hello all! I was reading over what everyone else has been saying and I think I am almost positive that I will choose the route of Dosimetry after radiation therapy school. Are online Dosimetry programs offered? and if so..are they trustworthy? Thanks :)