Comfort Level of US Radiation Oncology Graduates: Assessment of Transition to Independent Clinical Practice

Jeffrey V. Brower, Shuai Chen, Alex Ritter, Stanley L. Liauw, Stephen A. Rosenberg, Abhinav V. Reddy, Daniel W. Golden, Erin F. Gillespie, Malcolm D. Mattes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Radiation training programs are designed to prepare graduates for independent practice, with metrics in place to assess appropriateness of clinical decision-making. Here, we investigated the self-assessed preparedness of US graduates during the transition to independent practice.An anonymous, Internet-based survey was distributed to recent graduates of radiation oncology residencies (2016–2017). A Likert scale was used to assess comfort with various aspects of practice, as well as “time” to development of comfort in independent practice.Responses were obtained from 70/210 (33%), the majority reported training in programs with 5–8 residents (n = 35). Most (77%) reported designing between 500 and 900 treatment plans during training (n = 54). Only 41% of respondents reported the opportunity to review treatment plans and make decisions about safety/adequacy without attending input > 50% of the time (n = 29). Thirty percent of residents reported being responsible for seeing/managing on-treatment visits (OTVs) ≤ 75% of the time. Aspects with which practitioners reported the least comfort were understanding of billing/application to practice (2.43, IQR 2–3), orthovoltage (superficial radiation) setup and field design (2.57, IQR 1–4), and planning/delivery of prostate implants (2.82, IQR 2–4). Increased mean comfort levels were reported by those designing > 700 treatment plans in training as well as those reporting an opportunity to evaluate plans and make clinical decisions prior to attending input > 50% of the time during residency. Comfort with the delivery of stereotactic body radiation (SBRT) correlated with caseload for liver, spine, prostate, and CNS disease sites but not lung.Variations in training experiences exist across institutions. Here, a lower than expected number of residents reported seeing/managing OTVs as well as reviewing treatment plans prior to attending input during training. Overall comfort was correlated with case volume and opportunities to independently review treatment plans prior to attending input. These data highlight areas of opportunity for improving resident education with implications for ease of transition to independent clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Cancer Education
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2019


  • Education
  • Independent practice
  • Radiation oncology
  • Residency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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