Exploring Health Care Careers
In this highly unusual back-to-school time, one thing that remains the same is adults asking kids what they want to be when they grow up. Doctors and nurses have always been popular answers, but there are many other rewarding health care careers that most kids never see.
Stacy Anstine found one of these careers. She is as a certified medical dosimetrist at Lake Regional Cancer Center. Medical dosimetrists work with cancer doctors to design and deliver radiation treatment plans. In radiation therapy, the goals are to shrink and kill cancer cells while causing as few side effects as possible. This requires extremely targeted treatments to wipe out cancer while protecting healthy cells.
“The career tests we took in high school always indicated I would work in the area of helping others, such as health care or teaching,” Anstine says. “Interacting with others on a daily basis brings me joy.”
Anstine shares more about her career path in this Q&A.
How did you choose medical dosimetry?
I was still trying to decide on a major my second year into college. My younger sister had been researching the idea of X-ray school, and it seemed like a great fit. I finished an Associate of Arts degree and then applied to Nichols Career Center in Jefferson City.
Radiologic technology has several specialties, and at Nichols, I did short rotations through each specialty to get a feel for the work. After my rotation through radiation therapy, I knew it was for me. Radiation therapists get to know their patients because they spend five days a week with them throughout their course of treatment, sometimes up to eight weeks.
I spent a few years working as a radiation therapist and then went back to school for a certificate in medical dosimetry.
In the end, I put in six years of post-high school education and earned an associate’s degree, a certificate for X-ray, a certificate for radiation therapy and a certificate for medical dosimetry. All of these programs required passing a board exam and require continuing education each year. To pursue this position now, you would earn a master’s degree.
What is a typical day like?
I spend a fair amount of time in front of a computer designing treatment plans and configuring the optimal method to deliver the prescribed radiation dose and spare critical structures. The radiation therapists complete the patient simulations and daily treatments. If there are tricky circumstances, they will include me on the discussions because everything we do ties together.
After a patient is simulated, I receive the CT scan and work with the physician to begin creating a plan. Some plans are more straightforward than others are, such a treating a bone for pain. Others take days to complete. The physician either approves the plan or gives me guidance on what to change. Once a plan has approval, I put the plan into our system so our physicist can check it before treatment begins.
What do you love about your job?
I love my work family — we make an excellent team — and I love our patients. They are the reason we are here doing what we do each day. I also love that we offer every patient hope. For some, it’s the hope of a long future ahead, while for others we offer hope that their last days will be worthwhile.
What skills and mindset do you need to be successful?
Medical dosimetrists need strong math and computer skills. You also need to be a problem solver and critical thinker.
You have to be open to learning. Being willing to try new ideas offered by a physician, a physicist, an educational program or a fellow dosimetrist will help you grow as a medical professional and ensure the best outcomes for your patients. You have to be someone who keeps persevering even through tough challenges and who never settles for just being good enough.
Are you interested in a health care career? Check out lakeregional.com/values. This page explores the habits and mindsets that Lake Regional team members value in each other. It also has a link to current job openings.
Anita Harrison is the Public Relations Assistant Manager at Lake Regional Health Systems.