A dosimetrist is a key member of a radiation-oncology team, which treats patients with tumors and other cancerous tissues. This medical professional performs advanced mathematical calculations to determine the optimal radiation dosage, and the most effective external-beam geometry for administering the dose.

Dosimetrists create two or three possible treatment plans for patients, then work with radiation oncologists to select the best procedure. They detect the size, composition, and location of tumors. This allows radiation to be applied in a way that it does not damage healthy tissues. The dosimetrist is in charge of measuring the proper doses of radiation, which are generally provided daily for several weeks.

Dosimetrists play major roles in cancer research and the development of treatment techniques. The profession, which is considered a high-growth field, offers salaries approaching $100,000. Becoming a dosimetrist requires extension education and training, as well as a range of skills.

Dosimetrist Job Description

The work of a dosimetrist entails not only medical knowledge, but also advanced math and a solid grasp of computer systems. These practitioners are experts in anatomy, physiology, tumor pathology, and radiobiology. They administer not only radiation, but also employ radioactive materials to provide brachytherapy.

Dosimetrists serve under the supervision of radiation oncologists and medical physicists. They calibrate equipment, ensure that radiation-safety procedures are followed, and are in charge of quality assurance.

Equipment and procedures include X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, PET scans, ion chambers, thermoluminescent dosimeters, and computers that show three-dimensional images.

The dosimetrist uses algebra, calculus, and trigonometry to determine the dosage and where to direct the radiation beam. The area that receives the treatment is called the radiation field. The goal is to create a field that encompasses only the tumor or other cancerous tissue, while minimizing damage to surrounding areas. The dose must be great enough to eliminate the diseased cells, without causing unnecessary destruction.

The dosimetrist job description includes:
  • Study patients’ medical histories
  • Conduct examinations with the use of diagnostic equipment
  • Identify the location, size, and nature of tumors
  • Design computerized isodose treatment plans
  • Calculate radiation dose and location, and the energy level of the beam
  • Determine equipment settings for each procedure
  • Plan and produce moulds, casts, and other immobilization devices
  • Ensure that all equipment is functioning properly
  • Oversee radiation-safety protocols
  • Monitor and record radiation treatments
  • Serve as an assistant to the medical physicist, and follow the lead of the radiation oncologist
  • Teach and evaluate radiation-therapy students and residents, in classrooms and clinics
  • Mentor junior dosimetrists
  • Create and maintain records of treatment plans and outcomes
  • Take part in clinical research and receive continuing education

Dosimetrist Prerequisites

A dosimetrist is educated and trained in a wide range of disciplines. Superior math skills and analytical ability are crucial, as are a familiarity with computer equipment and programs. The job requires attention to detail, critical thinking, research skills, and problem-solving ability.

Communicating effectively is important, as dosimetrists must obtain information from patients. A professional, reassuring manner is needed when working with people suffering from cancer. Highly stressful situations may be encountered. Communication skills also are required for working with oncologists, physicists, therapists, and other radiation-oncology team members.

Dosimetrists may have to sit for long periods. They need to be physically capable of moving and manipulating medical equipment. There is a risk of radiation exposure, though this is significantly reduced by following accepted safety precautions.

Prospective students who wish to enrol in a dosimetry program should take the following courses in their bachelor’s degree including physics, biology, anatomy & physiology, calculus, chemistry,  computer science, medical terminology and general health care.

How to Become a Medical Dosimetrist

There are two paths that an individual can take to become a certified medical dosimetrist (CMD). In the first path, applicants must either possess a bachelor’s degree in physical science (preferably radiologic science) and/or be a registered radiation therapist with one year of clinical experience. These individuals can then enrol in at least 36 months  (or 35 hours per week) of clinical medical dosimetry experience under the supervision of a certified dosimetrist. During this time, applicants must also complete 24 CE credits approved by the Medical Dosimetrist Certification Board (MDCB).

The second path involves prospective students to enrol in a medical dosimetry program accredited by The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) of at least 12 months. Applicants compete for space in these programs, undergoing interviews by admissions committees.

Dosimetrist Certification

A medical dosimetrist must be certified before they can practice in the United States. Successful graduates of the medical dosimetry programs must pass an exam administered by the Medical Dosimetrist Certification Board (MDCB), which gives the the title, certified medical dosimetrist (CMD). Certificates have to be renewed each year, with 50 continuing education (CE) credits required every 5 years, through The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT).

Dosimetrist Salary

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Dosimetrist Job Description Summary

Here is a short recap of the dosimetrist job description:
  • Calculate radiation dosage and develop treatment plans
  • Work with oncologists and other physicians
  • At least 12 months of accredited program
  • Certification is mandatory