Clinical Specialist Radiation Therapist, Galway University Hospital
and IIRRT RT Council member
There is an urgent need for advanced practice radiation therapists (APRT) in radiation oncology in Ireland.
Cancer incidence is expected to increase 50% by 2050, with 50% of those cases requiring radiation therapy. With the expected increased demand on radiation therapy services, there is an increased need for more radiation therapists (RTTs). RTT’s have a pivotal role with clinical expertise along the patient pathway in radiation therapy and are ideally placed to improve patients’ quality of care.
Use of APRTs in gynaecology
Endometrial cancer (womb cancer) is the most common gynaecological cancer in women between the ages of 50 and 64 years. Common symptoms are postmenopausal bleeding, which is the presenting issue in most cases. Treatment initially involves hysterectomy, or removal of the womb followed by internal radiation called brachytherapy. This treatment can be uncomfortable for the women experiencing it, both mentally and physically.
Literature documenting the importance of a reduction in delays between treatment preparation and delivery, was as a direct result of designated APRTs providing the service. Consistency in staff performing the procedure was also reported by patients as important and led to a more positive experience. APRT in gynaecology is one example of an area in RT where enhanced services are necessary and should be provided by APRTs.
Consistency in staff performing the procedure was also reported by patients as important and led to a more positive experience.
Improvements in service capacity
Countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand that have implemented advanced practice (AP) roles for RTTs, have seen significant improvements such as enhanced service capacity and improved patient satisfaction are documented. More than two decades of peer reviewed evidence supporting implementation of APRT exists.
Here in Ireland, these roles are being developed with support by the radiation oncologists and radiation therapy services managers, to improve the overall service for cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy. Engagement and investment by government agencies is essential as how best to implement the APRT role for the benefit of the patients and service alike.