LEGAL CORNERBlack Box
Describing the work of medical physicists
N Kyle Schmanke, MS
ver the past couple of medical physicist to have significant or clinic at which he or she works.
CLINICAL decades, the job of the radia-
tion oncology physicist has
evolved significantly and become
increasingly complex. Twenty years
training and a specialized skill set.
A physicist proficient and highly
skilled on Gamma Knife® equipment
and software could not be expected
Medical staff and administration
must also ensure that the physicist
has the opportunity to have specific
training on the equipment being
ago, medical physicists were typi- to transfer to a Cyberknife® facility deployed and utilized in the facility.
cally expected to handle every aspect and immediately be ready to assist In today’s rapidly evolving high-tech
of a hospital’s radiation safety pro- environment, both software and
gram, including diagnostic, nuclear hardware are frequently upgraded.
medicine, and radiation therapy Therefore, medical physicists must
procedures. In short, the hospital’s …the job of the have access to vendor-specific train-
medical physicist was expected to be radiation oncology ing and continuing education to
an expert at everything in the facil- ensure operational proficiency and
ity that was involved with radiation. physicist has evolved the safety of patients.
Times have changed. Over the significantly and The medical physicist’s clini-
past ten years, specialization in cal work and data are sometimes
national certification boards and
become increasingly confined to a “Black Box” that may
state licensure programs has led to complex. be considered too complicated to
four distinct branches of medical open or understand. Give physicists
physics, and any overlap between the support, time, and educational
these branches is rapidly decreasing. opportunities they need to make
These four branches are: physicians in patient treatments. that box transparent so that every-
■■ Health physics The same holds true for high dose one in the facility benefits with the
■■ Diagnostic physics rate radiation (HDR), as well as patients’ quality of care being con-
■■ Nuclear medicine physics treatment modalities delivered on tinuously improved and validated by
■■ Radiation oncology physics. the latest iterations of image-guided the radiation oncology team.
radiation therapy-enabled (IGRT)
Within these branches, further spe- linear accelerators. Kyle Schmanke, MS, is presi-
cialization is occurring. Consider Because of this specialization, the dent of TMA Technology, Ltd., a
radiation oncology physics, for medical physicist’s job description nationwide provider of radiation
example. Within this branch, ste- should be developed to reflect the oncology physics services and qual-
reotactic radiosurgery is a specific specific equipment and procedures ity management tools, located in
treatment modality that requires the that are performed at the hospital Grapevine, Tex.
Keep Current side physics group or a consulting specific QA is closely examined to
physicist with particular expertise ensure it meets American Asso-
redentialing and accredita- in the facility’s equipment is essen- ciation of Physicists in Medicine,
tion are excellent ways to tial to protect the program’s staff (AAPM) Task Group standards
ensure that your facility’s and facility. along with American College of
programs are in line with approved Peer review of a cancer center’s Radiation Oncology, (ACRO) or
standards of care. Credentialing by radiation therapy physics program American College of Radiology
the Radiation Therapy Oncology typically occurs on an annual basis. (ACR) Oncology Standards.
Group, (RTOG) ensures the highest The peer review physicist exam- The American Association of
standard of radiation therapy care ines the quality of the data used in Physicists in Medicine (AAPM)
is provided by the entire team of the treatment planning computer, Task Group report on Radiation
caregivers including the physician, the process of treatment planning, Oncology Physics peer review,
physicist, dosimetrist, nursing, and and the individual patients’ quality TG-103 has excellent guidelines
therapist staff. assurance. Also the chart review and sample reports for such a
Peer review by a non-biased, out- process and therapy equipment review.
48 Oncology Issues May/June 2008