Hi there, my name is Jonny Thompson and I thought I’d give a quick run-down of my experiences in medical physics so far for anyone considering the same path.
I’ve been working as a Radiation Oncology Medical Physics (ROMP) registrar for almost a year now at Perth Radiation Oncology (PRO) in Wembley. I started out on my journey, to where I am now, in my third year of a biophysics degree when I began to think about what I wanted the degree to lead to. Basically I hassled as many people in the medical physics field as I could to get some temporary work over the holidays, and managed to get a foot in the door at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in the radiation oncology department. From there I met Martin Ebert, who took me on as an honours student in a project in medical physics the next year. During my honours year I approached Simon Woodings at PRO in regards to doing some temp work for them and thankfully they took me on. I assisted with individual patient quality assurance (QA) on a weekly basis and came to really enjoy my time there. So when the opportunity for a registrar position came up, I jumped on it.
Currently I am working my way through TEAP – the Training, Education and Accreditation Program – which is nominally a 5 year process, including a MSc in Medical Physics, where you come out the other side as an accredited Medical Physicist. The program can be daunting at first when you look at the sheer volume of knowledge required by the end, but once you start working through the competencies it becomes easier. Registrars are paired with a supervisor too, which ensures you keep up the pace in the program – useful for serial procrastinators such as myself!
The work itself is very rewarding as we are helping to ensure patients with cancer are being treated as successfully as possible. We do this in a number of ways which are wide-ranging and varied and which also helps to make the job very interesting. These include performing regular QA on the linear accelerators which deliver the radiation used in treatments; assembling radioactive plaques which are then sewn onto patients’ eyeballs to treat intraocular tumours; examining treatment plans to ensure no mistakes have been made; or developing new modes of treatment to improve patient outcomes, to name just a few of our duties. The financial rewards are also quite substantial, especially considering I am given substantial time to study for my MSc, so that adds a further perk to the job.
Overall I’d highly recommend radiation oncology medical physics to anyone wondering how they’ll use their physics degree. It’s a challenging job that requires independent thought and quite a few late nights, but is really rewarding and satisfying as we are helping to save and improve the lives of people suffering from cancer.