This fall I’ll be starting 24 months of school, pursuing a Master’s Degree in Occupational Therapy. This road began a few years ago when my dad, after seeing a newspaper article on the career, suggested I look into working in Radiation Therapy. The article said that the work was steady and the money good. As part of my road toward becoming a Radiation Therapy Tech, I volunteered in a hospital and figured out very quickly that Radiation Therapy is not for me!
Let me tell you a story.
RTT (Radiation Therapy Technology) isn’t for me, but probably not for the reason you think. Most people think that the danger of the X-rays, or dealing with sick people is difficult. First, the X-rays aren’t an issue: the beam is so incredibly lethal, there are many interlocks to make sure you never get near it. And it’s not dealing with sick people, heck the people are all healthy enough to make it into an 8 week course of treatment. But read on.
In short, I found the job mind numbingly boring, non-interactive, and sad. What I would be doing 4 times an hour, every day for the next 30 years would be quite simple:
- bring the patient into the treatment room
- strap them down
- leave the room
- watch the patient on a TV monitor while administering the treatment, my finger hovering over the “di-engage death ray” button
- turn the dial every couple minutes to start a different treatment (a treatment which has been chosen by a doctor, not me)
- Unstrap them
- Walk them out
- Repeat every 15 minutes for 30 years
The control room in the hospital’s basement is quiet except for the incessant “bip.. bip.. bip.. bip.. bip.. bip..” of the machine telling you the beam is on. You see, although everything is pretty straightforward, the solemnity and responsibility of firing a huge death ray straight into people’s vital organs (and hopefully missing the healthy bits) requires quite a bit of focus. One mistake could spell certain death for a patient. The room looks like one of those 1950′s science fiction movies where people in white coats operate Big Science machines, which is fascinating and all except that all those movie scenes lasted waaaay too long. This is no exception.
The worst is what happened when I asked two folks that worked there about their work.
I chatted with the nurse and got them in a good mood. Then I asked if they liked working in Radiation Therapy and they said… well, here’s how the conversation went:
Lee: Do you love your job?
Nurse: [hesitation and then] Well……
Lee: Do you like your job?
Nurse: [short shrug]
Lee: Do you not hate your job? (I’m immediately thinking “Oh my god, what if they don’t answer this third question, where the hell do we go from there?!”)
Nurse: Well… [she paused and then spoke slowly and with a bit of sadness] it’s sad when you see patients continue to come in and keep getting worse. And it’s especially bad when a patient stops coming in mid-way through treatment because… well, you know.
And that’s all they had to say about their job. Yipe. :-(
I asked one of the Technologists…
Lee: Do you like your job?
Tech: [pausing to give a thoughtful answer. Then he spoke clearly and slowly, looking me straight in the eye] It’s monotonous. It’s not enjoyable. It pays ok but… [and his voice trailed off. It was time to change the subject]
And that’s pretty much how the tech left it. Yow! This is not job satisfaction.
Your mileage may vary but this does not look like the career for me!