The interviewed physicist works in the Radiation Department. His daily tasks include consultations with radiation oncologists on the physical and radiobiological aspects of patients’ treatment and the development of treatment plans. Another responsibility is the calculation of dose distributions and machine settings for patient treatments. The physicist also ensures the accuracy of treatment unit parameters and settings for a quality patient’s treatment. This includes a correct transfer of parameters between the simulator, treatment plan, and the treatment unit, as well as the periodic review of each patient’s chart.
Apart from these assignments, the physicist also interacts with the medical physics community through participating in the radiation oncology physics or related medical meetings so as to receive and disseminate state-of-the-art information. Participation in peer review is also required from this person.
In relation to patient care, the physicist does not interact with patients on a daily basis. However, he is an important part of the patient care team since safety is the biggest part of his day. This is why one of his roles includes guaranteeing the accuracy of treatment unit parameters and settings.
Apart from medics and patients, the physicist also interacts with other professionals on a daily basis such as radiation oncologists, radiation therapists, nurses, neurosurgeons, physicists and those who work in the administration.
Because of the nature of this professional, there exist different challenges according to the interviewee’s explanations. These include demands from physicians and staff to have treatment plans completed in a timely manner and maintaining the highest level of safety and accuracy.
Apart from the interactions inside the organization, the job demands interactions with professionals outside the medical facility including medical physicists at other radiation centers in the US which is done at monthly meetings. However, most of the interactions, according to the interviewee, are done with the professionals from the same organization he works in.
In order to complete all these tasks, the professional is required to communicate with his peers through different strategies. This is because the physicist has to work closely with his colleagues in order to perform different treatments. Such tasks call for direct communication, in which the physicist is good at discussing any patient or equipment issues that may be experienced. The physicist is always available by cell phone but is not good at email communication and would prefer to talk directly to his colleagues.
Apart from communication, the profession being discussed needs understanding and it is the work of the physicist to foster this understanding. Based on the interview, he favors understanding by listening to others’ ideas and concerns. He also reaches understanding by keeping up with the professional competencies and participating in department meetings. The physicist is always on time for work and completes tasks in a timely manner. These strategies are used not only to achieve understanding but also encourage respect and effective change within the organizations he works in.
Apart from the healthcare facility he works in, the physicist also belongs to other professional organizations such as the Radio-Surgery Society and American Association of Physics in Medicine (AAPM).
The organizations, according to the interviewee, are affiliations important in the professional's work since cooperating with these organizations provides him with continuing education credits and allows him to have a learning relationship with colleagues. Working in these organizations allows the physicist to update his knowledge on how organizations treat their patients and how he as a physicist can help to improve things.
Through this continuing education within the different organizations, the professional is able to remain updated in the field. In addition, the physicist is able to learn about the advancements in different organizations as well as his field of work.
Perception Changes in Relation to the Interview
After conducting this interview, my opinions about this job changed. First of all, I thought that a medical physicist was a very technical job which does not imply much interaction with other staff members and patients. Prior to the interview, I also thought that all medical physicist does is mostly calculations and math. However, this was not the case since I realized that they interact with others in order to provide quality care for the patients.
I also learned that the job had some challenges and most of all are the level of responsibility the physicist has in the overall radiation therapy department. Physicians and different staff members count on this professional to ensure that the equipment is functioning accurately thus making sure that all radiation doses have been calculated correctly. Both physicians and treating technicians look to the physicist with the questions regarding patient safety and equipment quality.
I am not as detailed as I would need to be in this role, and I think it would be difficult to complete all the assigned tasks as well as keep up with the daily demands of making sure the flow of patient care is not affected. Patient care is the biggest difference in management. When employees are dealing with patients, every situation has to be looked at with a broad viewpoint. Ultimately, there are always policies to guide you, but when you are responsible for someone’s health, it is different.
To foster understanding and respect in this area, I can undertake several strategies. These include the setting of true goals (Chatman, 2008), working as team members (Bos, 2006), and making sure that I understand my roles clearly and work to accomplish them (Jones, 2004).
Summary of Learning Experiences
In conclusion, the interview carried out with a medical physicist enabled me to understand the actual duties and tasks that a physicist does. The experience also destroyed my misperceptions about this profession. For example, earlier, I believed that this job included total seclusion from other staff members and minimal interactions with them. However, the interview helped me understand that physicists do interact with other professionals and patients in and outside the healthcare organization. I also came to the conclusion that responsibility in this profession is highly demanded. In such areas as radiation readings, any failures can lead to poor patient care. Because of this, I came up with different personal strategies of improving communication and understanding as a career in this area includes working in a team, setting true goals, and clearly understanding professional roles.