Research carried out by Prostate Cancer UK and the Society and College of Radiographers (SCoR) has identified there is a growth in the number of prostate/urology site-specialist therapeutic radiographers in the UK - with roles reliably in place in 18 of the UK’s 72 cancer centres.

What we discovered

In relation to job plans, the research found that while practitioners’ core functions were generally similar there are some important differences, which can likely be attributed to the isolated way in which these roles have developed. The majority of posts have been created out of the existing radiographic establishment.

Plus, most of the domains of advanced and consultant practice are represented but under-developed, there is a lack of consistency about what the role should be and no robust sense of identity or professional ownership of the role.

Particular themes highlighted by this service mapping and development project, which aimed to understand and strengthen the growing prostate site-specialist workforce included:

  • the sustainability of the role
  • consistency of the core functions of the role
  • a lack of clarity about the limits of the role, i.e. where it should begin and end
  • the expressed ambivalence about the value of professional supervision
  • the need for support for relevant education and skills development, especially prescribing
  • a lack of engagement with research both in relation to the role and radiotherapy practice.

By identifying the support and development needs of practitioners through this research, we have created an online community forum and framework for collaborative practice with associated resources, opportunities for networking and future role developments to help implement the recommendations into practice.

What the research means for men

Therapeutic radiographers are critical in the prostate cancer patient pathway – they have specialist, technical expertise to plan and deliver treatment combined with intense patient contact over several weeks. Their knowledge, skill, care and support are essential to ensuring that the outcomes and experiences of men are as successful and as positive as possible.

We know that more and more men are undergoing radiotherapy as a treatment for prostate cancer. For those men that opt for radiotherapy as a primary treatment, they spend a significant and intense period of their clinical journey in the radiotherapy centre. While in the past these patients would have been under the care of therapeutic radiographers in general oncology roles, this new development means that more men are under the care of an advanced practitioner employed as a prostate or urology site-specialist.

The report presents valuable insights into the role that should be taken forward in the development of a consistent, standardised, specialist key worker role to optimise radiotherapy and support for men with prostate cancer. Given what we know about the pressures of urology nursing, there is potential for more radiographer site-specialists to take on this key worker role for radiotherapy patients.

With the support of SCoR we’re delighted to have set up an online community forum and support network with resources for prostate/urology specialist radiographers to help enable post holders to be part of an established specialist interest group for ongoing sharing of best practice and ideas.

We also want the forum to create opportunities for the wider radiotherapy community to better manage and support prostate cancer patients receiving radiotherapy, including those centres that do not have prostate/urology site specialists.

If you are a radiographer, whether a specialist, manager or trainee, wishing to join the network you can register here.

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