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Physics Considering a career as an hospital radiophysicist

  1. May 13, 2016 #1

    I'm finishing my degree and I'm considering going through the hospital residency and try to end up as an hospital radiophysicist. I'm also considering a career in Data Science, however, so I'd like to get some first-hand info in order to make a good decision.

    I think I would like working in a hospital. From what I gather the job seems relatively stable once you get it, and I think having a part in healing people would be very satisfying, but I'm worried that it will get very repetitive and it won't require any creativity or problem-solving. Not that I could not bear a job like that, but if that's how it is I would prefer taking another route.

    I would appreciate it if some of you who has gone this route told me a bit about the job: what do you routinely do, how boring/interesting it is, how happy you are you took this route...

    Thank you for your time.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 13, 2016 #2
    I take it that by the use of the term radiophysicist you are not from the USA. Generally the term medical physicist is used here. I can only speak from my experience working in US hospital radiation oncology departments. My work was clinical with essentially no research although there could be opportunities to find publishable projects if you can find the time. While there are some repetitive activities that must be performed there are usually many challenging issues that need to be resolved which require extensive knowledge, time and the cooperation of fellow workers at your site.

    I wish to call you attention to an Insight article by @Choppy in this Forum "How to become a Medical Physicist in 3653 Easy Steps "https://www.physicsforums.com/insights/become-medical-physicist-3653-easy-steps/. for a more detailed explanation.

    I never really considered any of my routine activities as boring as such. The repetitive tasks as daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual quality assurance activities do not change much. However these procedures must be conscientiously documented and evaluated since the safety and health of the patients and fellow workers depend on it. It help to have a obsessive compulsive streak in you. Depending on you level of responsibility you may be involved in the planning of the treatments of the patients as well as any quality assurance activities associated with the planning procedure. These can be routine but also challenging because each patient is unique and some with unique treatment issues which require special considerations.

    Radiation therapy involves the use of complex equipment which is continually updated and improved or replaced with new procedures. One is required to maintain ones competence through ongoing assessment of ones expertise through continuing education programs. One must be careful not to overextend oneself for it is easy to be overwhelmed by the volume and diversity of the activities that you may be responsible for. You are a manager and as such carry a great deal of responsibility both for you own work and that of your coworkers to some extent. Good communication both written and verbal are essential. You will work daily with physicians, radiation therapists, nurses, and administrators and have good interpersonal skills. I cannot emphasize this too strongly.

    Your duties are essentially to assure that the patients are treated according to objectives of the radiation oncologist and to assure that no patient is harmed. There are many decisions that only you can make that achieve these goals and that you are directly responsible.

    For the right person it is a definitely rewarding profession.
  4. May 14, 2016 #3


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    From my point of view (I'm a Medical Physicist in Canada), there certainly are repetitive aspects of the job, but I can't say I've ever been all that bored in the profession. Remember that every job has it's boring parts. Even if you became a professor with an unlimited research budget, doing science involves repeating a lot of measurements, establishing trends, staring at long lists of data, etc.

    Medical Physics can involve a lot of research, or not very much, depending on the ultimate position you take, the stage of your career, and even your own interests, etc. But even if you're a purely clinical Medical Physicist you tend to be the person that people come to when things don't work. A large portion of the job involves solving problems that come up in the clinic - figuring out the best plan for putting radiation into a patient that's a lot different from typical patients, what are the consequences of delivering radiation at a higher dose rate, commissioning a new treatment technique or a new measurement device, etc. - all the kinds of problems for which there is no manual, and no one you can call that knows the answer. And as Gleem says, you interact with a lot of different professions and I agree completely that interpersonal and communication skills are extremely important. Medical physicists tend to speak a lot of different languages: physics, electronics, engineering, medicine, IT, radiation protection, management, etc. and so often the job can involve translating information from one profession to another.
  5. May 15, 2016 #4
    I've always hoped to work in something where I'll need to have interdisciplinary knowledge, since I've always liked being a bit of a jack of all trades. It seems that there's some of this in being a medical physicist.

    Thank you two for your answers.
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