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Solving the radiation therapist shortage

New international alliance aims to help solve radiation therapist shortage

The University of Otago has formed an alliance with the University of Sydney, in another step towards solving New Zealand's shortage of radiation therapists.

The new alliance means radiation therapists will have access to quality post graduate education, which is seen as an important move in encouraging graduates to stay in New Zealand, as well as assisting recruitment from overseas.

The University of Otago is already offering New Zealand's only undergraduate training in radiation therapy at its Wellington School of Medicine and Health Sciences. The head of the Department of Radiation Therapy Karen Coleman says Sydney and Otago will now collaborate to offer distance-learning programmes for graduates, with specialisation available in advanced radiation therapy.

Ms Coleman says both Otago and Sydney are regarded as the Australasian leaders in radiation therapy and a collaborative approach will bring even higher levels of expertise to post graduate teaching.

The lack of post graduate education in New Zealand has made it more difficult to retain radiation therapists in New Zealand, according to Ms Coleman. Availability of post graduate education in New Zealand will also make it easier to recruit overseas radiation therapists, she says.

The Wellington School of Medicine and Health Sciences has increased the number of undergraduate radiation therapy students and 100 students are now enrolled. About 32 of these students will graduate at the end of next year, Ms Coleman says.

"We are delighted that we can now offer these students post graduate and research opportunities in a University environment."

The team leader for radiation therapists at the Wellington Cancer Centre says the profession is very pleased with the improved access to post graduate education.

Jennifer de Ridder says post graduate courses assist in providing an avenue for career path progression, which in turn is an important component of staff retention and recruitment as outlined in the Health Workforce Advisory Committee report.

"Distance learning programmes are a critical factor in ensuring radiation therapists across New Zealand have the opportunity to undertake post graduate courses while continuing with their professional practice. The areas of specialisation will support the development of radiation treatment techniques in exciting new directions to the benefit of patients."

The new opportunities for post graduate education will be outlined at the annual national conference of the New Zealand Institute of Medical Radiation Technology, being held in Hamilton from 15-17th August.

Shortages of radiation therapists in New Zealand have meant delays in a number of centres for patients seeking cancer treatment.

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