Discuss about the Challenges Faced by the Radiation Therapist.
One of the greatest revolutions to the health care industry had been introduction of the radiation therapy into the treatment procedures. In simple terms, the medical radiation can be defined as the use of the radiation technology to perform complicated digital imaging on the patients to obtain better understanding of the abnormalities that the patients are facing. This particular treatment innovation uses radiations like x rays, g rays, and many more for the digital imaging of the patient body. Other than that this technology is also used for the purpose of providing radiation treatment to the patients that are suffering from cancer (Sim & Radloff, 2009).
Hence, the importance of radiation in the medical sciences and the clinical practice settings are diverse, hence the profession of radiation therapist is also extremely popular, and that is the reason why more and more students opt for a career in the radiation therapy. However there are a number of different challenges that are a part of a career as radiation therapists which continues to influence the professional development and experience of the radiation therapist (Solberg et al., 2012). This section of the assignment will explore the challenges that the radiation therapists face in their professional practice and provide a set of recommendations to overcome these challenges.
Challenges faced by the radiation therapists:
One of the greatest challenges that the radiation therapists encounter in their professional career is the low self esteem they associate with their profession. The contributing factor behind this challenge in the profession of radiation science is due to the fact that the concept of medical radiation science is still very novel to the world, and very few have the understanding to recognise the importance of medical radiation professionals. According to the Sim & Radloff, 2009, the emerging group of aspiring medical radiation professionals continue to struggle to find their niche with a recognized and appreciated profession, in comparison to a career in mainstream medical science or physiotherapy. It has to be understood that this professional domain has still not been discovered in a manner that will facilitate radiation therapy as an honourable and suitable profession (Sim & Radloff, 2009). Along with that, the social outlook of the very subject imparts a significant effect on the reception of this occupation as a career choice. According to the SC, 2012, a very significant part of the society overestimate the dangers associated with radiation therapy and a vast majority of the society lack adequate knowledge of radiation therapy and how it is administered. It contributes largely to the lack of recognition and appreciation that the medical radiation therapists are subjected to. As a result, the radiation therapists face extreme lack of enthusiasm and connection to their profession and do not exhibit desire to improve their professional competencies (SC, 2012).
Many of the research scientists have recognised one of the major reasons behind the lack of optimal professional approach in any occupation due to the professional apathy that they suffer with. According to authors, the low public profile of the particular profession contributes largely to the widespread apathy in medical radiation sciences as a profession that in turn contributes to aggravate the low self esteem of radiation therapists. As a result the radiation therapists rarely want to move out of their comfort zone while in clinical practice and it in turns limits their scope of professional development and disrupts the optimal care provided to the patients (Marks et al., 2013).
According to the study of Washington & Leaver, (2015) the radiation therapist needs to focus on the psychosocial needs of the patients dealing with the chronic illness. In this aspect may professionals have been found to fail in delivering the psychosocial care. There is a greater focus laid on the technical part of the job. There is poor assessment or monitoring of the patient’s psychological needs or provision of the support to the patients and their families especially those with low health literacy (Smith et al., 2013). In some cases its leads to failure in establishing therapeutic relationships with the patients. The factor that causes this challenge is the lack of training and development facilities for the radiotherapy professionals. Several hospitals and clinics in the remote or rural areas do not give the professionals the opportunity for transition into administration, education and industry. Chite et al. (2015), argued that radiation therapist may be warm and compassionate but addressing the patient’s queries and responding to the unusual reactions of the patients during treatment is the skill. This requires the therapist to seek training and education programs to address the psychological needs of patients.
Job burnout is the other major challenge faced by the radiotherapist when providing the health care to the cancer patients. This profession requires pairing of therapists in the treatment room. It may lead to stress and confusion, when the both therapists are not in same page in regards to use of specific treatment methods. Lack of effective communication among the team members further hampers care process (Diggens & Chesson, 2014). The treatment in many cases is effected when the radiation beam is not accurately focused on the specific part of the patient’s body. Some types of treatments are indeed a challenge, as they require infinite practice. This leads to job burnout among the radiation therapists and prevents professional growth (Paulson et al., 2015).
In similar paper by Zietman (2014) it was highlighted that stress among the radiation therapy professionals depend on the patient load, work place and the management. How well the department work as a team determines the care delivered by the professional. This negatively affects the professionals and the practice. There is also lack of culture of safety in many health organisations. Health care provision in a workplace environment that lacks trust among the department members, lack of review or tracking of the event and lack of standard operating procedure are other factors that negatively impacts the profession. On the other hand, proper definition of the roles and responsibilities leads to effective care and it positively affects the profession. Ability to establish the patient centred care helps to build the therapeutic relationship with the clients. It positively impacts the profession as it increases the self-esteem and morale of the professionals. Good quality control audits and regulations lead to positive clinical health outcomes.
The study by Marshall et al. (2017) mentioned that physical and emotional wear faced by the therapists causes further challenges. For example, positioning of the equipments and lifting of the patients during the care provision causes leg or back injuries. The part of the profession includes exposure to the radiation inspire of the safety measures. This may significantly harm the professional’s health. Any harm caused to patient leads to lawsuits and negative repercussions on the career of the professionals
It has to be understood, that radiation sciences have become an integral part of the clinical practice, and without the assistance of the radiation technology, the revolutionary innovations in the health care industry will remain incomplete. The patients will cease from obtaining the benefits of the radiation therapy integrated into the treatment procedures. However, the challenges prevalent in the radiation therapy as a profession, continues to hinder the progress of this division within the medical sciences. However a course of strategic steps taken to improve the situation of radiation science in the health care industry can overcome the challenges that complicate the career path for a radiation therapist (Liauw, Connell & Weichselbaum, 2013).
First and foremost, there is an absolute need for recognition in the health care industry and for the radiation therapy as a profession. Unlike the doctors and nurses, the career profile for the radiation therapists are not as recognised, and the very first strategic recommendation should be centred on improving the career profile of the medical radiation therapists (Marks et al., 2011).
The second strategy should focus on expansion of the job role that medical radiation therapists are assigned. It has to be understood that an essential element of professional growth in any occupation is associated with scope for the job roles to be extended. Hence, many authors suggest CPD participation and job role expansion can prove to be exceptional strategic action to improve the professional loyal and wellbeing of the radiation therapists (Zaidi & El Naqa, 2010).
Another very important strategy that the present scenario under consideration can employ is skill enhancement and professional knowledge expansion. A most important aspect of continuous career growth is the consistent skill and knowledge development which will allow the radiation therapists to understand their job roles better and connect with the patients better. A very important aspect in any profession is the ability to meet the job requirements, and with continuous skill development the radiation therapists will be able to perform better psychological assessment of the patients and improve professional competence as well (Payne et al., 2013).
In order to decrease the burnout experienced by the radiation therapists, the most plausible strategy would be to increase the staffing ratio, as excessive workload often results in decreased professionalism and competencies. Along with that a supportive and compassionate workplace culture can also help in minimizing the impact of excessive burnout on the radiation therapists (Mund & Lyko, 2010).
The last but most influential strategy in this context is incorporating mutual respect and communication in the team environment. It has to be understood that the health care system in the present day performs as a multidisciplinary team, and each and every member of the team should be respected and communicated with equally. Incorporating mutual respect and communication in the team environment will boost self confidence and sense of value in the radiation therapists which will help them propel towards professional growth as well (Payne et al., 2013).
On a concluding note, it can be concluded that despite the revolutionary technological advancements in the health care industry, there still are a number of deep rooted challenges that complicate the career path for the more contemporary professional entities. The radiation science is not an exception to this scenario as well. There are a huge number of challenges that are associated with practice in the clinical setting as a radiation therapists, and that is a major contributing factor in the extreme staffing demands in the health care facilities. A large proportion of radiation therapists abandon their careers halfway not being able to overcome the challenges and hurdles that are prevalent in the health care industry for a radiation therapist. However, with strategic actions these challenges can be overcome and the career path for radiation therapists can be improved drastically.
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