Professional practice changes in radiotherapy physics during the COVID-19 pandemic

Jenny Bertholet*, Marianne C. Aznar, Cristina Garibaldi, David Thwaites, Eduard Gershkevitsh, Daniela Thorwarth, Dirk Verellen, Ben Heijmen, Coen Hurkmans, Ludvig Muren, Kathrine Røe Redalen, Frank André Siebert, Marco Schwarz, Wouter Van Elmpt, Dietmar Georg, Nuria Jornet, Catharine H. Clark

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Background and purpose: The COVID-19 pandemic has imposed changes in radiotherapy (RT) departments worldwide. Medical physicists (MPs) are key healthcare professionals in maintaining safe and effective RT. This study reports on MPs experience during the first pandemic peak and explores the consequences on their work. Methods: A 39-question survey on changes in departmental and clinical practice and on the impact for the future was sent to the global MP community. A total of 433 responses were analysed by professional role and by country clustered on the daily infection numbers. Results: The impact of COVID-19 was bigger in countries with high daily infection rate. The majority of MPs worked in alternation at home/on-site. Among practice changes, implementation and/or increased use of hypofractionation was the most common (47% of the respondents). Sixteen percent of respondents modified patient-specific quality assurance (QA), 21% reduced machine QA, and 25% moved machine QA to weekends/evenings. The perception of trust in leadership and team unity was reversed between management MPs (towards increased trust and unity) and clinical MPs (towards a decrease). Changes such as home-working and increased use of hypofractionation were welcomed. However, some MPs were concerned about pressure to keep negative changes (e.g. weekend work). Conclusion: COVID-19 affected MPs through changes in practice and QA procedures but also in terms of trust in leadership and team unity. Some changes were welcomed but others caused worries for the future. This report forms the basis, from a medical physics perspective, to evaluate long-lasting changes within a multi-disciplinary setting.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-32
Number of pages8
JournalPhysics and Imaging in Radiation Oncology
Volume19
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge all the respondents of the survey for their detailed answers and for openly sharing their experience. We thank the ESTRO office for technical support.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021

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