Growth in Proton Therapy Increases Demand for Well-Trained Staff
Since opening in 2008, the ProCure Training and Development Center (TDC) in Bloomington, Indiana, has prepared more than 100 health care professionals employed by
ProCure Treatments Centers, Inc., to work in the burgeoning field of proton therapy. Demand for well-educated professional staff is high, because of the growing number of centers offering this high-tech cancer treatment.
Having a dedicated training center helps ProCure get proton therapy centers up and running faster — a marked advantage for patients seeking proton therapy and the benefits it can bring, including more precise tumor targeting and less damage to normal tissues than traditional photon radiation.
The TDC offers hands-on training for radiation oncologists, medical physicists, dosimetrists, radiation therapists and other staff members who will work in ProCure Proton Therapy centers.
Proton therapy staff
First, a few definitions: A radiation oncologist is a medical doctor specializing in the treatment of various cancers using radiation. A medical physicist is a clinician who ensures the safe delivery of the radiation to patients. A dosimetrist develops the treatment plan that constitutes the radiation dose distributions and dose calculations used in treating the disease site. And a radiation therapist prepares patients to deliver the custom treatment plans for the patient’s treatment, positioning them in the way that assures the proton beam hits its target as planned.
“We do some training at the individual ProCure Proton Therapy centers across the country,” said Niek Schreuder, Chief Medical Physicist, ProCure. “But the majority of the training is done at the training center. That’s where staff can have uninterrupted time to learn and let ideas sink in. We like to say that you can call a ‘time out’ at the training center, but not when you have a patient on the treatment bed.”
A growing option for cancer care
A typical ProCure Proton Therapy center employs about 80 health care professionals. According to the Proton Therapy Co-Operative Group, there are currently 40 Proton Therapy centers in clinical operation throughout the world, with 25 additional centers either in the planning stage or under construction.
ProCure now operates three Proton Therapy centers in the United States: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Warrenville, Illinois; and Somerset, New Jersey. A ProCure center will open in Seattle, Washington, in 2013.
Like the real thing
The TDC is designed and equipped to simulate an actual working Proton Therapy center, except that protons are not used.
“We have all the software, user interfaces and user screens you would find in a Proton Therapy center, as well as treatment planning software and a CT [computerized tomography] scanner,” said Schreuder.
The TDC has two types of treatment rooms: a gantry treatment room, where a large cylindrical piece of equipment, the gantry, rotates 360 degrees around the patient to provide maximum access to the tumor; and an inclined-beam treatment room, which is a more compact treatment delivery system.
The TDC can also be used in between training sessions as a place to develop new proton therapy techniques.
“We continue to do a lot of technology development at the training center, because we can use the system in a prototype mode until we need to use the equipment for training again,” said Schreuder.
All ProCure staff members who interact with patients are required to complete training at the TDC. Passing an oral examination is required for medical physicists before they are allowed to perform clinical treatments. Radiation therapists who complete TDC training and perform a certain number of patient procedures receive a certificate issued by Ivy Tech Community College in Bloomington, Indiana. And many staff members earn CME credits for completing various courses.
“We keep learning from our experience, so our training is very flexible,” said Schreuder. “We have talented instructors here, but we also rely heavily on our professional staff to be self-trainers — to take what they learn at the TDC and put it into practice at their particular center. At the individual centers, we also provide customer experience training for our concierge group. Our absolute focus is on our patients; both for effective proton therapy treatment and for making the experience itself as positive as possible.”