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Clinical training

While the shortage of clinically qualified medical physicists is a worldwide problem it is most acute in developing nations. The need for medical physicists is becoming more evident due to the increasing complexity of both treatment and diagnostic equipment coupled to the raising expectations of good health care in all parts of the world as well as the implementation of radiation protection and safety standards, however the supply of suitably qualified and trained personnel has not kept up with these developments and hence this shortage is worsening. Another important reason for this is the migration of promising physics professionals from developing countries to more developed countries where the recognition of the medical physicists is better established. The introduction of a programme of clinical training, to supplement academic qualifications has the dual purpose of providing skilled professionals for the developing country as well as providing standards that can be used to raise the recognition of medical physicists.

In an increasing number of countries graduate level courses in medical physics are offered by universities. The clinical in-service training component however is in many cases small or missing. This has resulted in incomplete preparation of the medical physicists to practice independently as important aspects of training cannot be completed in the university setting. A structured in-service clinical training programme provides a better preparation for medical physicists to ensure that they are capable of independent, safe and effective practice. Such a programme should reduce the total time needed for medical physicists, referred to as residents in these programmes, to reach clinical competence and also to prepare them to undertake the more advanced methodologies which are being rapidly introduced in the specializations of medical physics. Relatively few countries have developed national standards of clinical training, which are an essential part of ensuring high quality and consistent training throughout a country.

The IAEA has a long history of involvement in medical physics education and training and has recently developed a set of guides and other material to be used in the clinical training of the next generation of medical physicists specialising in radiation oncology, diagnostic radiology and nuclear medicine.

Objective of the IAEA Clinical Training Guide

The objective of the clinical training programme for medical physicists specialising in either radiation oncology, diagnostic radiology or nuclear medicine is to produce an independent practitioner who is a lifelong learner and who can work unsupervised at a safe and highly professional standard.

The clinical training programme is seeking to assist this objective through

  • Provision of this detailed guide to clinical training
  • Provision of an implementation strategy to allow effective clinical training. Forming a basis for a national or regional qualification (education and clinical training) standard
  • Providing assistance to national bodies and departments to deliver the training programme through a pilot programme
  • Promoting quality improvement of the programme, and
  • Strengthening of the national capacity to sustain such a clinical training programme
    after initial introduction.