Radiotherapy goes virtual

Cardiff University’s School of Healthcare Studies has won funding for a virtual training system which allows radiotherapists to practise their skills in a completely safe environment.

The school’s Department of Radiography was awarded funding through the NHS Capital Expenditure Scheme to install Virtual Environment Radiotherapy Training facilities.

Dr Paul Brown, who led the £358,000 bid, said: ‘The money will be used to set up a virtual reality system within the academic setting, where therapeutic radiography students can gain hands-on experience of using the linear accelerator treatment machines in a safe environment, in preparation for, and alongside their clinical training.’

The Department of Radiography at Cardiff, with 20 therapeutic and 35 diagnostic radiography students each year, is the only centre for training therapeutic radiographers in Wales.

Tracking the user through a series of sensors, the equipment creates a simulated environment which is then projected onto screens via the computer software. The student user is immersed in a virtual radiotherapy treatment room and can perform the usual functions undertaken in setting up a patient for their radiotherapy treatment and associated tasks.

The NHS funding will enable the Department of Radiography to install a dual projector system on the Heath Park campus with a higher specification than those within other UK universities. Students can learn important concepts, and to practice techniques in a safe environment, where no harm can come to student, machine or patient. It is possible to set-up accidents such as misdirection of radiation beams and ‘see’ the consequence of these within the patient.