Staffing in radiation oncology practices has always been plagued with administrative issues. The process of radiation therapy consists of a series of steps and often involves a number of different individuals. Each practice should establish a staffing program consistent with patient care, administrative, research and other responsibilities. It is recognized that talent, training and work preferences may vary from individual to individual; therefore, it is appropriate to factor these aspects into a staffing program. Since the 1980’s many organizations have published benchmarks for radiation therapy staffing. Among these organizations are AAPM, ACR, ACRO, AAMD, ASRT and a few private market research institutions. These reports provide benchmarks for the staffing of not only medical physicists, but also dosimetrists, radiation therapists, and nurses. It is worth noting that some of these reports were generated before computer information system technology became a part of radiation treatment systems. We believe that development of benchmarks for staffing in radiation therapy practices is very important and directly affects the quality of patient care and safety. Until we finalize this study, here are some recent staffing levels in radiation therapy practices as published by the ACR for the purpose of radiation oncology program accreditation.
According to the ACR, for accreditation purposes “the facility’s staffing levels for radiation oncologists, physicists, radiation therapists and dosimetrists are compared to the accredited facility averages and averages for the facility’s stratum as defined in the following table. The table allows facilities to identify personnel and equipment utilization issues. Staffing recommendations may be part of the final report; however, variations from these levels generally do not result in withholding of accreditation unless inadequate staffing levels result in non-compliance with ACR Practice Guidelines and Technical Standards and/or compromise patient safety.”
We will post more articles on this topic in a timely fashion and encourage our readers to send us their thoughts and comments on this issue.