Vacancies for radiation therapists reached 7.2% in 2020, according to a survey by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists.
The ASRT Radiation Therapy Staffing and Workplace Survey 2020 recorded a 4% rise from the previous figure of 3.2% for vacancies in 2018, as well as a drop in the average number of budgeted radiation therapist positions per facility from 7.7% to 7.1% in the same period of time. Researchers behind the report, however, caution that the survey was conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and that the findings do not take into account its impact.
"Our research saw an increase in vacancy rates for therapists and medical dosimetrists", said ASRT director of research John Culbertson, M.Ed., M.A. "However, caution should be taken when interpreting and generalizing these figures. It should be stressed that the data was collected before the substantial impact COVID-19 had on clinical practice."
The survey was emailed in February 2020 to 14,027 radiation therapists at U.S. radiation therapy sites. Of this number, 657 submitted completed questionnaires. A majority of respondents (56.4%) were staff therapists, while 19.6% were senior and lead therapists, and 8.4% were medical dosimetrists. The number of budgeted full-time equivalents were used to estimate overall percentages of unfilled positions, along with figures on vacant and recruiting positions.
The increase in vacancies was higher among medical dosimetrists, rising from 2.4% to 9.6%. The number of budgeted positions, however, remained the same as in 2018 at 2.5%.
Vacancies among both radiation therapists and medical dosimetrists was 8.4%, with the Pacific region holding the highest amount (14%) and the Mountain region holding the lowest (4.8%).
The survey also explored facility demographics, finding the average respondent worked in a facility that offered 13.8% of services in radiation therapy and related fields. The most common were the same as in 2018 and included CT/simulation (94.9%); intensity-modulated radiation therapy (94.9%); and cone-beam CT (92.6%). The least commonly offered services were also the same and included hyperthermia (4.7%); proton therapy (5.9%); and dynamic adaptive radiation therapy (8.4%).
More than 58% said they plan to acquire additional LINAC therapy units, while 19.7% will add real-time surface tracking. Over 15% plan to add adaptive planning, while 29.6% have no plans to add any of these new services.
A majority of respondents worked in suburban facilities (42.7%), followed by urban (42.4%) and rural (15%) sites. All were from every state excluding Delaware and West Virginia. The average facility treats 49 patients each day and uses 2.2 linear accelerators.
“The average respondent works at a facility that schedules 2.4 therapists and 1.1 dosimetrists per linear accelerator,” said the authors of the survey. “On average, there are 0.7 hours per day when only one therapist is scheduled per linear accelerator.”
The previous survey in 2018 recorded a 0.3% rise in vacancies for radiation therapists
and a 1.1% decline in those for medical dosimetrists.
The ASRT conducts staffing surveys each year, alternating between the medical imaging and radiation therapy practice areas, to monitor workplace and hiring trends in the radiologic sciences. It has completed eight since 2004 and is available to ASRT members free of charge.