Learning radiotherapy : the state of the art

Gerard M Walls, Gerard G Hanna, James J McAleer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
65 Downloads (Pure)


BACKGROUND: The last two decades have seen revolutionary developments in both radiotherapy technology and postgraduate medical training. Trainees are expected to attain competencies using a mix of experiential learning, formal postgraduate teaching, self-directed learning and peer education. Radiation (Clinical) Oncology is a recognised 'craft specialty' where the apprenticeship model of training is applicable. This scoping review examines the evidence in relation to how medical trainees learn radiotherapy.

METHODS: A systematic search of MEDINE and EMBASE was undertaken to identify studies of trainee and/or trainer experience of radiotherapy learning published 1999-2018. Results pertaining to Medical Oncology, workforce trends, undergraduate radiotherapy exposure, academic training, global health, non-medical staff, health service infrastructure and recruitment to training programmes were not included.

RESULTS: A total of 146 publications were included in the synthesis. Five themes were apparent through careful iterative analysis representing broadly inter-related issues. Most articles studied radiotherapy training from the perspective of the trainee doctor. Most literature reports results of observational, local or national surveys with a tightly defined scope. Considerable variation exists within hospitals, within countries, over time and between different curricular areas.

CONCLUSIONS: Medical education has not kept pace with changes in the field of radiotherapy and large differences are demonstrated in experience between trainees in different hospitals, countries and training stages. Interpersonal relationships, departmental organisation, and national curricula impact on training quality. Qualitative and quantitative research examining modern radiotherapy learning has been uncommon and uncoordinated, until recently. To date no single study has been designed to comprehensively assess a department's training scheme.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBMC Medical Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2020


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