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Fight Cancer as a Radiation Therapist

Fight Cancer as a Radiation Therapist

Wendy J. Meyeroff | Monster Contributing Writer

October 15, 2009

Radiation therapists are posting mean salaries of about $71,500 a year, according to the American Society of Radiologic Technologists’ 2007 Wage and Salary Survey.

Michael Shanahan, RT(T), technical manager in radiation oncology at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia, funded his education through a union he’d joined. A former electrician, Shanahan completed a two-year training program at New York City’s Montefiore Medical Center and then got his license. In his 10 years at NewYork-Presbyterian, Shanahan has been regularly promoted, most recently to his current position after only three years as a senior supervisor.

“I saw the radiation therapists being challenged on a daily basis,” he says of his decision to pursue radiation therapy over other radiologic specialties, which he thought might turn out to be more “cookie cutter.”

Diverse Challenges, Personal Rewards

Danielle Gencarelli, RT(T), a radiation therapist at MSKCC, says specialty hospitals such as MSKCC are great for radiation therapists. “Here you have so many diverse treatments,” she says. “Straight out of school, it’s a great way to see as many techniques as possible.”

A good example is Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), she explains. IMRT uses sophisticated computer calculations and other advances to deliver very precise radiation doses. “A lot of places now say, ‘We have IMRT,’ but I learned on that,” says Gencarelli, who holds an associate’s degree and trained at MSKCC for two years before being hired in August 2003.

Beyond technological advances, Larkin is grateful for improvements in medications that control patients’ pain and nausea better.

The ultimate rewards of the job, though, are often intensely personal. “You see the relief in your patients’ eyes when they know you’re there again to take care of them,” Larkin says. “Eleven years of doing this, and I haven’t lost the feeling of satisfaction.”