Mission Statement

The UNC Hospitals Radiation Therapy Program will prepare competent, educated, and professional entry-level radiation therapists who will participate in scholarly activity and enhance overall patient care.

The Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology (JRCERT) is the accrediting body for our radiation therapy program. A copy of their 2014 Standards for Accreditation can be found HERE. In 2016, our program was re-accredited by the JRCERT for a total of 8 years, until 2024.

Program Description

The radiation therapist is a vital and essential member of the radiation oncology team. The UNC Hospitals Radiation Therapy Program is located in the UNC Department of Radiation Oncology in Chapel Hill, NC. The UNC Department of Radiation Oncology was formed in 1987 from the UNC Division of Radiation Therapy. The UNC Division of Radiation Therapy began in 1969 with the purchase of a Cobalt60 unit.

The program course material and practicum covers radiation protection, radiation physics, dose calculations, external beam treatment, brachytherapy, quality assurance, medical imaging/anatomy, clinical radiation oncology, and radiobiology. Clinical practicum includes CT simulation, patient preparation, chart reviews, dose calculations, record and verify system data entry, external beam treatment (3D, IMRT, TomoTherapy, CyberKnife), and treatment machine quality assurance. Conference attendance, oral and written reports, and special projects are also part of the curriculum.

Program Goals

Goal 1: Students will be clinically competent

  • Student Learning Outcomes
    • Students will demonstrate acquisition of correct CT simulation skills.
    • Students will evidence competency in treatment.

Goal 2: Students will demonstrate effective communication skills

  • Student Learning Outcomes
    • Students will effectively communicate with patients, therapists, faculty, and staff.
    • Students will write at a proficient level by graduation.

Goal 3: Student will develop critical thinking skills

  • Student Learning Outcomes
    • Students will apply didactic concepts and information in the clinical setting.
    • Students will conceptualize current patient safety radiation therapy Lean A3 engineering principles.

Goal 4: Student will grow and develop professionally

  • Student Learning Outcomes
    • Students will demonstrate professional behaviors.
    • Students will participate in continuing education.

Program Handbook and Assessment Plan

Program Accreditation and Development Committee

  • Matthew Hawkins, MHA, BA, RT(R)(T), CMD
    Radiation Therapy Program Director
    UNC Department of Radiation Oncology
  • Elaine M. Zeman, PhD
    Associate Professor
    UNC Department of Radiation Oncology
  • Dana LaChapelle, AS, RT(R)(T)
    Chief Radiation Therapist
    UNC Department of Radiation Oncology
  • Traci Leach, MS, RT(R)(T)
    Clinical Coordinator and Instructor
    UNC Department of Radiation Oncology
  • Patricia Saponaro, MS, MBA
    Administrative Director
    UNC Department of Radiation Oncology
  • Shiva Das, PhD
    Professor and Director of Medical Physics
    UNC Department of Radiation Oncology
  • Nelson Santana, BS, RT(R)(T)
    Radiation Therapist
    Duke University Department of Radiation Oncology

Program Faculty and Professional Staff

All students in our radiation therapy program are under the tutelage of radiation oncologists, medical physicists, radiation biologists, certified medical dosimetrists, and certified radiation therapists. Program faculty include UNC School of Medicine faculty and UNC Hospitals professional staff.

Academic Policy and Curriculum

The UNC School of Radiation Therapy is a 12 month, post-radiography certificate program. The program is fully accredited by the JRCERT and incorporates the national radiation therapy curriculum established by the American Society of Radiologic Technologists (ASRT). The curriculum includes all didactic and clinical competencies required for eligibility for the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists (ARRT) Examination, Radiation Therapy Component.

Applicants are free to apply while still enrolled in a radiography program, however they must hold at least an associate’s degree from an accredited college or university, and be certified in radiography, RT (R), by the time they enter the UNC Radiation Therapy Program.

The primary clinical component of the program takes place at The UNC Hospitals Department of Radiation Oncology in Chapel Hill, NC. External clinical rotation sites include Duke University in nearby Durham, NC, and Rex Healthcare, located in Raleigh, NC.

The educational format includes both didactic sessions and clinical practicums. Students are expected to participate in clinical and research conferences, quality assurance, two and three dimensional external beam treatment planning, low and high dose rate brachytherapy, and clinical training. As the Department of Radiation Oncology is home to four different training programs (radiation oncology residency, medical physics residency, radiation therapy certificate program and medical dosimetry certificate program), “intra-professional” education is particularly emphasized, and students at all levels take part in special seminars, social events and clinical exercises.

Students are expected to adhere to high academic standards of performance and ethics, and display appropriate professional behavior during all phases of their educational experience. Students are also required to abide by all program policies as published in the Program’s Master Plan of Education and the Program’s Student Handbook.

Courses include:

(Note: A 3 credit-hour course consists of approximately 37.5 classroom or contact hours)

Course Credit-Hours (Semester)
RTT 560 Radiation Safety

This course is an introduction to the sources of radiation. The content includes detection and measurement, source handling, survey methodology, maximum permissible doses, room design, and governmental regulations.

2 hours
(First Semester, Fall)
RTT 90 Medical Radiation Physics I

A course in radiation physics that includes an emphasis on mathematics, radiation protection/safety, and quality assurance issues relating to medical application in radiation therapy medicine.

3 hours
(First Semester, Fall)
RTT 94 Radiation Dosimetry I

A course emphasizing didactic and clinical application of dosimetric principles to radiation therapy treatment planning. Included are discussions of basic quality assurance measures, treatment simulations, manual and computer calculation methods, and basic dosimetry theories.

3 hours
(First Semester, Fall)
RTT 500 Foundations of Radiation Therapy

A study of the responsibilities, ethics, and basic principles of radiation therapy with emphasis on the unique interpersonal relationships and special nursing care required of patients receiving radiation treatments.

3 hours
(First Semester, Fall)
RTT 531 Clinical Education in Radiation Therapy I

A clinical course focusing on the applications of radiation via external and internal sources. With direct supervision, the student develops clinical skills through observation and participation in radiation therapy procedures. Laboratory sessions for simulation procedures are also included.

6 hours
(First Semester, Fall)
RTT 595 Research Methodology Design Statistics I

The student is required to select an advisor and perform a clinical research project or conduct a literature review of a topic related to radiation therapy and/or cancer treatment.

3 hours
(First Semester, Fall)

 

Course Credit-Hours (Semester)
RTT 92 Medical Radiation Physics II

A continuation of RTT 90 with concentration on the relationship between radiation physics and radiation therapy.

3 hours
(Second Semester, Spring)
RTT 97 The Radiobiology of Radiotherapy

A course emphasizing didactic and clinical principles of radiobiology as applied to radiation therapy. Included are discussions on cell structure, radiation dose response, and basic radiobiology theory.

3 hours
(Second Semester, Spring)
RTT 532 Clinical Education in Radiation Therapy II

A clinical course focusing on the applications of radiation via external and internal sources. With direct supervision, the student develops clinical skills through observation and participation in radiation therapy procedures. Laboratory sessions for simulation procedures are also included.

6 hours
(Second Semester, Spring)
RTT 550 Radiation Oncology

A study of the characteristics and treatment of benign and malignant tumors with emphasis on specific malignancies typically treated with radiation. Other information included covers symptoms, staging, modes of spread, and survival rates for various tumors.

3 hours
(Second Semester, Spring)
RTT 596 Research Methodology Design Statistics II

The student is required to complete his/her research manuscript.

3 hours
(Second Semester, Spring)

 

Course Credit-Hours (Semester)
RTT 533 Clinical Education in Radiation Therapy III

A continuation of RTT 532 with emphasis on procedures of great complexity and refinement of techniques for routine procedures.

3 hours
(Third Semester, Summer)
RTT 600 Seminars in Radiation Oncology

A self-study review of all basic radiation therapy material included in the major areas of radiation therapy.

2 hours
(Third Semester, Summer)
Total = 43 credit-hours

Academic Calendar

Orientation begins on or about July 1 of each year with a completion date of June 30 the following year. Attendance is required Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 4:30 PM (standard 40 hour work week). Students are allowed a total of 11 UNC Hospitals-designated holidays plus an additional 5 days off for “personal time”.

Each year, the exact start date could vary slightly depending on which day of the week Independence Day falls. Upon acceptance into the program, students will be notified of the exact start date for that year.

Admissions

Applicants must be US citizens, board certified in radiography – RT (R) – and hold at least an associate’s degree from an accredited college or university by the time of enrollment. They must also provide the following:

  • Complete and submit a UNC Radiation Therapy Program Application Form.
  • Submit transcripts from all high schools and institutions of higher education attended, SAT scores or equivalent if available, and any previous registry scores.
  • Submit three letters of recommendation.

After completion and submission of the application package, the Admissions Committee then considers as much information as possible when evaluating a candidate’s qualifications for the study and practice of radiation therapy. The Admissions Committee will invite selected candidates to proceed to the next step, a personal interview. The personal interview enables prospective students to obtain more information about the Program, and allows the Committee to better assess such factors as motivation, professionalism and interpersonal communication skills. Letters of invitation to interview are sent via the US Postal Service (with e-mail followup), typically in late January, and a single interview session is scheduled for a Saturday morning in mid-to-late February. An interview “make-up date” will NOT be offered. Selection for a personal interview does not guarantee admission into the Program.

The Radiation Therapy Program adheres to the UNC Equal Employment Opportunity Policy, offering equal opportunity without regard to age, color, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation or veteran status as consistent with the University’s Policy on Prohibited Discrimination, Harassment and Related Misconduct.

Technical Standards for Radiation Therapists

At minimum, radiation therapists must be able to perform the following activities:

Transport, move, lift, and transfer patients from a wheelchair or stretcher to and from a treatment or simulation table.

  • Lift and position beam shaping devices weighing up to 50 pounds.
  • Communicate clearly, including instructing patients during treatment and simulation.
  • Possess sufficient visual acuity to observe patients and equipment operation during treatment, as well as read the patient’s radiation reports and medical information. Hearing also must be adequate to perceive and interpret audio signals from equipment, and to respond to patients’ questions or concerns.
  • Ability to view computer monitors for extended periods.
  • Have sufficient problem-solving skills and the ability to perform these skills in a timely manner. Such skills include, but are not limited to, measuring, calculating, analyzing, and evaluating medical and technological information, and synthesizing this information in a way that facilitates troubleshooting problems and/or responding to emergency situations.

Graduation and Certification Examination Requirements

Before a student enrolled in the UNC Hospitals Radiation Therapy Program can be deemed eligible to apply for ARRT Certification Examination, he or she must fulfill the following requirements:

  • The student must have completed the academic requirements of the Program successfully, as well as all research papers and other projects before being allowed to graduate.
  • The student must have all fees and other Program charges paid in full.
  • The student must return all state property in their possession, or else remit payment(s) for lost, stolen or damaged property.

Transfer Credit

The Program is a one year certificate program, and as such, does not accept transfer students.

If an already-enrolled student in our program wishes to transfer to another radiation therapy certificate program (that does accept transfers) or continue his or her higher education, it is the responsibility of the student to ascertain which, if any, UNC Hospitals Radiation Therapy Program courses would be transferable to the other program or institution.

Student Services

Students enrolled in the UNC Hospitals Radiation Therapy Program have access to four UNC-Chapel Hill academic libraries, UNC Healthcare computer laboratories and tutors, medical and undergraduate bookstores and the UNC Hospitals recreational facilities.

Students are responsible for their own health insurance coverage and living expenses.

Tuition and Fees

There is no tuition for the Program, although the following non-refundable, one-time costs do apply:

  • Textbooks: approximately $250
  • Uniforms: cost of professional, workplace-appropriate attire and a lab coat
  • Travel expenses to and from off-campus clinical sites
  • Computer/Dosimetry Laboratory Fee: $1,500

Deadlines

Your application – including SAT scores or equivalent (if available), relevant work experience, all college transcripts and three letters of recommendation – must be submitted in its entirety by the deadline date of January 1 of each year, for planned enrollment in July of the same year.

Program Effectiveness Data (last 5 years)

Outcome Measurement
Tool
Benchmark Timeframe Responsible
Party
Results
(Number of Students)
Metric Action Plan
Attrition Program completion rate 50% Annual Program Director (reported annually to the advisory committee) 2019: 0% (0/4)
2018: 0% (0/4)
2017: 0% (0/4)
2016: 25% (1/4)
2015: 0% (0/3)
Program benchmark was met. Continue as is.
Pass Rate Credentialing exam pass rate 100% 5-year average pass rate (at first attempt within 6 months of graduation) Program Director (reported annually to the advisory committee) 2019: 100% (4/4)
2018: 100% (4/4)
2017: 100% (4/4)
2016: 100% (3/3)
2015: 100% (3/3)
Program benchmark was met. Continue as is.
Employment Job placement rate 100% 5-year average job placement rate (within 6 months of graduation) Program Director (reported annually to the advisory committee) 2019: 100% (4/4)
2018: 100% (4/4)
2017: 100% (4/4)
2016: 100% (3/3)
2015: 100% (3/3)
Program benchmark was met. Continue as is.
Graduate Satisfaction Graduate survey At least a 4 on a 5 point scale Annual Program Director (reported annually to the advisory committee) 2019: 4.6/5
2018: 4.6/5
2017: 4.6/5
2016: 4.5/5
2015: 4.3/5
Program benchmark was met. Continue as is.
Employer Satisfaction Employer survey At least a 4 on a 5 point scale Annual Program Director (reported annually to the advisory committee) 2019: 4.5/5
2018: 4.5/5
2017: 4.5/5
2016: 4.4/5
2015: 4.3/5
Program benchmark was met. Continue as is.

Need Additional Information?

For additional information about our Radiation Therapy Program beyond that provided above, please contact:

Matthew Hawkins, MHA, BA, RT(R)(T), CMD
Radiation Therapy Program Director
Department of Radiation Oncology
North Carolina Cancer Hospital
101 Manning Drive
Chapel Hill, NC 27514

Phone: ‭(984) 974-8646
E-Mail: Matthew.Hawkins@unchealth.unc.edu