In the medical curriculum of most Polish universities, oncological radiation therapy as a separate subject does not exist. If medical graduates met him, it was only because they had taken courses in oncology centers – explains prof. Krzysztof Składowski, national consultant in the field of oncological radiotherapy.
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The voivodship offices have already published the results of the spring qualification for medical, medical and dental specializations. Of 364 places prepared in the field of oncology, only 31 doctors were admitted.
In the field of oncological radiotherapy, 65 places were allocated during the spring recruitment, of which three have been filled: one each in the voivodships of Mazowieckie, Podlaskie and Pomorskie (plus one in non-resident mode).
Guidelines and reality of Polish oncological radiotherapy
According to the latest report of the national consultant in the field of oncological radiotherapy for 2021, professionally active specialists in oncological radiotherapy in the Polish healthcare system about 600.
– The precise determination of their number is difficult because of the natural movements of staff caused by the influx of young doctors after the examinations and the acquisition of pension rights. Some radiation oncologists work in more than one therapeutic entity, which allows them to be employed under contract. Currently, 152 physicians specialize in radiotherapy oncology – emphasizes prof. dr hab. not. med. Krzysztof Składowski, national consultant in the field of oncological radiotherapy, director of the National Institute of Oncology Maria Skłodowskiej-Curie – National Research Institute, Gliwice branch.
Is this number sufficient given the expected increase in the health burden associated with neoplastic diseases?
– Unfortunately, almost all cancer centers today suffer from a lack of specialists in radiotherapy oncology. According to the guidelines of the European Society for Radiotherapy Oncology (ESTRO), it is assumed that there should be 4-5 specialists per linear accelerator. We currently have about 200 accelerators in our country, so simple calculations show that there are no radiation therapists, he adds.
The financial aspect can be attracted by radiotherapy oncology
According to prof. Składowski, oncological radiotherapy is not one of the most popular specializations, also because it remains a less known and recognizable field of medicine, also in the medical community.
– Radiotherapy oncology as a separate subject does not exist in the medical curriculum of most Polish universities. If medical graduates met him, it was only because they took courses in oncology centers. On the other hand, specialization in oncological radiotherapy is considered difficult, because it requires the mastery not only of medical knowledge, but also of that in the field of medical physics, which is stricter. Therefore, mastering it can be difficult for physicians who view medicine more as an art than a scientific discipline. The financial aspect, however, can attract young doctors to the specialization that I represent. In all the cancer centers that I know of that employ radiation oncologists, the salaries remain at a satisfactory level. – said the prof. Krzysztof Skladowski.
What else could encourage young physicians to choose this field of study?
– In my opinion, the community should, more than it does today, popularize knowledge about oncological radiotherapy as a medical field in its own right. A concrete and most tangible action in this area would be to increase the knowledge of medical students in this area of cancer treatment. For this, however, they are needed changes in the curricula of medical universities. And courses of oncological radiotherapy should take place in centers with modern equipment. At the National Institute of Oncology in Gliwice there is a student research group, the members of which are engaged in various scientific projects that are appreciated not only by the Polish community. Several students will soon travel to Copenhagen for the congress of radiotherapists, where they will present their work validated by our experts before an international body. I believe that this type of activity really deserves support, as well as other initiatives to popularize knowledge about radiotherapy among medical followers – emphasizes the expert.
As a prof. Krzysztof Składowski, in the opinion of doctors, radiation oncology is considered a niche specialization, while it is a full-fledged oncological discipline, the effectiveness of which in the treatment of cancer is the same than in surgery and chemotherapy.
AI will not replace radiation oncologists
– The work of a radiation oncologist is based on the use of modern technologies, but I would be very cautious about bold and futuristic visions in which the specialist in radiation therapy is replaced by artificial intelligence. AI technology is entering medicine more and more boldly, but I don’t think it can replace a doctor in disciplines where direct communication with the patient results in treatment outcome, and oncology radiation therapy certainly part of it. Artificial intelligence can be a response to staffing shortages in other areas. For those in whom contact with the patient is not the basis of the procedure, summarizes the national consultant in the field of oncological radiotherapy.
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