The program was developed partly as a solution to address the shortage of radiation therapists in Alberta. That shortage is predicted to increase in the next eight to 12 years as more of the province’s 195 licensed therapists retire. Radiation therapists play a critical role in providing cancer treatment to patients, a role that is becoming broader and increasingly technical and clinical, says Sandy McEwan, chair of the Department of Oncology.
“Radiotherapy treatment techniques themselves are becoming more complex and more dependent on a very broad scientific and clinical background, including a good understanding of pathology and anatomy,” he says. “We’re becoming much more sophisticated in delivering targeted radiation doses, increasing the dose to tumour and decreasing the dose to normal tissue. If we’re going to prepare the next generation of radiation therapists we need to give them those skills. Through this program, we really are training these graduates for practice in 2020, not practice in 1990.”
The BSc program’s pre-professional year will commence in 2013–¬14 and the first of the program’s three professional years will then begin in 2014–15 with about 15 students enrolled. Plans also include developing a master’s program in radiation therapy in the coming years and incorporating it into an advanced practice certification. “There is an increasing move to advanced practice in nursing and pharmacy and we believe there’s going to be a major role in the future for an advanced practice radiation therapist,” says McEwan, explaining that the health system’s expectations for these professionals are growing. “We want our graduates to really have a good understanding of the disease they are treating as well as the patient they are treating.”
Renovations are currently underway to house staff and equipment for the new program in the University Terrace building. New funding for the BSc in Radiation Therapy was provided by the Alberta government and is earmarked for this program.
Radiation Therapy Program
Department of Oncology
University of Alberta
Room 3-12, University Terrace
Edmonton, AB T6G 2T4