University of Wisconsin-La Crosse | uwlax.edu

Medical Dosimetry (MS)
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  • About Medical Dosimetry

    What is Medical Dosimetry?  The field of Medical Dosimetry involves the measurement and calculation of dose for the treatment of cancer patients.  Dosimetrists use their knowledge of physics, anatomy, and radiobiology to develop an optimal arrangement of radiation portals to spare normal and radiosensitive tissues while applying a prescribed dose to the targeted disease volume.

    UW-La Crosse sponsors the only Medical Dosimetry Program in the nation that offers online distance education for dosimetry students using the Desire2Learn E-learning course management system.

    This web site informs prospective students about the program, the profession, and the unique possibilities associated with it.  Additionally, a wealth of information regarding admissions and application materials is also available here.  Please contact the program via e-mail with any questions or concerns you may have regarding the program.

    The medical dosimetrist is a member of the radiation oncology team that plays a role in the management of cancer. Medical Dosimetry allows professionals to utilize their knowledge of mathematics, medical physics, science, and critical thinking in his/her everyday work. Medical Dosimetrists specialize in the planning of optimal radiation treatment techniques and dose calculations in collaboration with the medical physicist and radiation oncologist.

    According to the American Association of Medical Dosimetrists (AAMD), the professional organization, the medical dosimetry profession is described as:

    After the Radiation Oncologist has consulted with the patient on their plan of treatment, he/she will write a prescription of radiation dose to a defined tumor volume. The medical dosimetrist will then design a treatment plan by means of computer and/or manual computation to determine a treatment field technique that will deliver that prescribed radiation dose. When designing that plan, also taken into consideration are the dose-limiting structures. These structures could include the eye when treating the brain, the heart when treating the lung, or the spinal cord when it is included in the area of treatment.

    The medical dosimetrist maintains a delicate balance between delivering the prescription the physician has written while ensuring the patient will not lose important healthy organ function. In many institutions, the medical dosimetrist also has the ability to execute planning for intracavitary and interstitial brachytherapy procedures.

    Following the planning process, the patient will have a simulation for tumor localization to ensure reproducibility of treatment set up and plan delivery. Here, it may be necessary to produce moulds, casts, and other immobilization devices for accurate treatment delivery. A medical dosimetrist may supervise, perform, or assist in this process. The medical dosimetrist will then work with the radiation therapists in the implementation of the patient treatment plans including: the correct application of immobilization devices, beam modification devices, approved field arrangements, and other treatment variables.

    The advancements in computer technology place us at the forefront of many new processes. Using imaging modalities such as CT scans, alone or in combination with MRI or PET scans, we plan with 3-D computers that enable us to give higher doses of radiation to a tumor while lowering the doses to the sensitive structures around it. In some environments we play a part in cutting edge clinical research for the development and implementation of new techniques in cancer treatment. It is an exciting and amazing profession to work in. We are members of a team that contributes toward cancer survivorship on a daily basis.

    In summation, the medical dosimetrist performs calculations for the accurate delivery of the Radiation Oncologist's prescribed dose, documents pertinent information in the patient record, and verifies the mathematical accuracy of all calculations using a system established by the Medical Physicist. We perform, or assist in, the application of specific methods of radiation measurement including ion chamber, thermoluminescent dosimeters (TLD), or film measurement as directed by the Medical Physicist. Another area that we may contribute to is giving technical and physics support to the Medical Physicist; this support could be in radiation protection, qualitative machine calibrations, and quality assurance of the radiation oncology equipment. Also, we often take on the role of educator in facilities that have radiation oncology residents, radiation therapy students or medical dosimetry students.

    Skills Needed

    Dosimetrists:

    • possess an understanding of the technical aspects of radiation oncology and medical physics to derive computerized treatment plans.  They communicate these aspects to the Radiation Oncologist for plan approval and to the Radiation Therapist for plan implementation.
    • are able to perform routine duties independent of supervision, consulting with the Radiation Oncologist and Medical Physicist as required.
    • operate and perform quality assurance on the treatment planning system , under the direction of the Medical Physicist.
    • have a working knowledge of radiation safety in addition to the current rules and regulations of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
    • are able to interpret and execute treatment plans as defined in relevant treatment protocols.
    • possess mathematical skills including algebra, trigonometry, and introductory calculus and are able to visualize objects in three-dimensional concepts to facilitate the treatment planning process.
    • are experienced and comfortable with computer operations and functions.
    • are at ease with having close patient contact while working in a health career field.

    Career Outlook

    The future job market for Medical Dosimetry is strong.  The advances in treatment planning increase the demand for qualified medical dosimetrists.  Wages are comparable with other healthcare professions.  Given the diversity and ever changing technology of the job, lifelong career satisfaction is achievable.

    Certification

    After successful completion of the medical dosimetry program and six months of work experience, students are eligible to apply to take the medical dosimetry certification exam.  The exam is held in various locations throughout the United States every year in June.  The Medical Dosimetry Certification Board (MDCB) is the credentialing body for the certification exam.

    Education

    The Medical Dosimetry Program offers a Master’s Degree program that provide students with an educational foundation in medical dosimetry as well as clinical experience in a radiation oncology department. The curriculum requires online courses taken synchronously with a clinical internship at an affiliated site.  Admission to the program is on a competitive basis.

    Mission

    The Medical Dosimetry Program at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse is committed to the education of medical dosimetrists who are knowledgeable, competent, and dedicated to their profession and their patients.

    Goals & Student Learning Outcomes (SLO)

    1. Students will demonstrate entry level competence.
      1. SLO: Students will design acceptable radiotherapy plans for patient treatments.
      2. SLO: Students will construct anatomical contours correctly.
    2. Students will use critical thinking and problem solving skills necessary to practice in current and emerging technology.
      1. SLO: Students will differentiate among multiple plan configurations for a specific patient treatment.
      2. SLO: Students will evaluate dose volume histograms.
    3. Students will demonstrate proficiency in verbal and written communication skills.
      1. SLO: Students will demonstrate effective verbal communication skills.
      2. SLO: Students will practice effective written communication skills.
    4. Students will develop and exhibit professional practices.
      1. SLO: Students will demonstrate professionalism in the clinical setting.
      2. SLO: Students will support life-long practices for continued professional growth.
    5. Graduate students will demonstrate research skills needed to approach medical dosimetry practice with scholarly rigor.
      1. SLO: Students will demonstrate research skills in scholarly assignments.
    6. The program will be successful in meeting the educational needs of its students and graduates’ employers will be satisfied with their preparation.
      1. SLO: Students will complete all graduation requirements.
      2. SLO: Students will pass the national certification exam.
      3. SLO: Graduates will obtain employment within 12 months of graduation.
      4. SLO: Employers will exhibit satisfaction with the graduates' performance.
    7. The program will graduate students prepared for the clinical environment.
      1. SLO: Graduates will exhibit preparedness from their clinical experience.

    The University is accredited at the institutional level by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. Additionally, the UWL- Medical Dosimetry program is accredited by a discipline-specific, professional accreditation organization - the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology.

    The program completed the most recent accreditation site visit in July of 2011 and received an 8 year accreditation, with no citations. This is the maximum accreditation awarded by the JRCERT. The interim report is due in 2015 and a re-accreditation is due in 2019.

    For more information regarding accreditation of medical dosimetry programs, visit the JRCERT web site at www.jrcert.org.

     

    JRCERT
    20 N. Wacker Drive, Suite 2850
    Chicago, IL 60606-3182
    Phone: (312) 704-5300
    Fax: (312) 704-5304 

     

    What does an accredited program mean to a prospective student?             

    • The profession is assured, through programmatic accreditation, that educational programs in the field are providing consistent minimum education in the profession as the profession itself has defined it.
    • Through the process of programmatic accreditation, educators are assured that their educational programs are keeping pace with the profession and with standards developed through national consensus.
    • Accreditation of educational programs assures patients that students who perform procedures have appropriate supervision during the educational process. It also assures them that graduates will have met the minimum level of competency as defined nationally by the profession.
    • Accreditation of an educational program provides students, as graduates, assurance that the educational program will provide them with the requisite knowledge, skills, and values to competently perform the range of professional responsibilities expected by potential employers nationwide. It also assures they will be eligible for licensure in each of the 50 states. By requiring programs to teach the entire curriculum developed by the professional society, the American Society of Radiologic Technology, it also assures students they will have the foundation knowledge to continue to develop as professionals in the various fields of the radiation sciences.                

    (www.jrcert.org, 2008)

    The UW-L Medical Dosimetry program statistics include graduate statistics from various internship locations throughout the U.S.  The success of the graduates is due to their motivation & hard-work as well as the commitment and dedication of the faculty, clinical instructors, clinical preceptors, and mentors at each clinical internship site.  The program faculty and advisory committee ensures the highest quality of education and that the graduates are well prepared to enter the profession.

    • What is the annual program completion (graduation) rate?
      There was an 89% completion rate (8/9) for the cohort students of 9/2011-5/2013.
    • What is the job placement rate within 12 months of graduation over the past 5 years (2009-2013)?
      Over the past 5 years, the job placement rate within 12 months of graduation was 100% (21/21).
    • What is the credentialing examination pass rate on 1st attempt within 12 months of graduation over the past 5 years (2009-2013)?
      The pass rate on 1st attempt for 2009-2013 was 78% (21/27).  

    Visit JRCERT for more information about JRCERT accredited programs and program effectiveness data.

    Assessment
    Assessment of student learning takes place at four levels at the university:

    • Institution-wide assessment
    • Assessment of student learning outcomes in general education
    • Assessment of student learning outcomes in each undergraduate and graduate academic program
    • Assessment of student learning in individual courses

    The program develops, implements, and analyzes an annual outcomes assessment plan to:

    • promote programmatic improvement
    • improve teaching and learning
    • facilitate accountability
    • identify program strengths

    COLORADO

    • University of Colorado HospitalAurora, CO (Denver area) 

    FLORIDA

    • Moffitt Cancer Center - Tampa, FL 

    ILLINOIS

    • Loyola University Medical Center - Maywood, IL (Chicagoland)
    • Cadence Health - Central DuPage Hospital/Proton Center - Warrenville, IL  (Chicagoland)
    • Cadence Cancer Center at Delnor Hospital - Geneva, IL  (Chicagoland)
    • University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System - Chicago, IL 

    KENTUCKY

    • James Graham Brown Cancer Center [Inactive 2014-15] - Louisville, KY 

    MICHIGAN

    • University of Michigan Health System - Ann Arbor, MI
    • McLaren Cancer Institute/Proton Center - Flint, MI 

    MINNESOTA

    • St. Paul Cancer Center - St. Paul, MN (Twin Cities)
    • VA Medical Center - Minneapolis, MN (Twin Cities) 

    NEW YORK

    • Cancer Care of Western New York - Cheektowaga, NY (near Buffalo)
    • New York Methodist Hospital - Brooklyn, NY 

    OHIO

    • Summa Health System [Inactive 2014-15] - Akron, OH 

    PENNSYLVANIA

    • Geisinger Wyoming Valley Cancer Center - Wilkes-Barre, PA 

    TEXAS

    • Verity Radiation Therapy - Plano, TX (Dallas-Fort Worth area) 

    VIRGINIA

    • Massey Cancer Center @ Virginia Commonwealth University - Richmond, VA 

    WISCONSIN

    • Gundersen Lutheran Medical Center - La Crosse, WI 
    • University of Wisconsin - Madison Hospitals & Clinics - Madison, WI  

    Please note:  Not all sites will be available in a given year.

    For more information regarding where UW-La Crosse is authorized to offer on-line education outside the state of Wisconsin please visit State Authorization. This is updated periodically, therefore, the medical dosimetry program should be contacted with concerns or questions.

    Students enrolled in the program must complete their clinical training at one of the program's affiliated clinical sites.  Prospective students may propose the addition of a new site to the program director, however, this process must be initiated well in advance of the application deadline.  In order for a new site to be considered, the applicant must submit their request to the program director at least six (6) months prior to the application deadline.  The site must also meet the program's requirements for a clinical site.  Simply listing an unaffiliated clinical site on the application will not be sufficient.  Requests not meeting this deadline will not be considered for that application cycle.

    Please be aware that a felony charge may affect your ability to obtain clinical placements and/or sit for the board examination.

    We respect that a student may elect to not receive immunizations for personal or medical reasons.  Students who have a medical condition that precludes them from receiving immunizations may be asked to provide additional documentation from a medical provider.  Clinical affiliates must comply with their organization's policy regarding immunizations and as such may decline a student without required immunizations or medical documentation.  Students should be aware that this may impact options for clinical education experiences and progression through the medical dosimetry curriculum.