This week we are celebrating our radiation therapists for National Radiographers & Radiation Therapists’ Week. The week encompasses both Marie Curie’s birthday on 7 November and the anniversary of the discovery of X-radiation by Wilhelm Roentgen on 8 November.
You might be wondering what the difference is between a radiation therapist and a radiographer, a not uncommon question.
A radiation therapist uses imaging equipment and computer planning systems to create and calculate the best radiation treatment plan for cancer patients. The plan will have been determined by the radiation oncologist – a specialist doctor trained in the use of radiation therapy.
Radiation therapists administer this treatment plan by applying high energy X-Rays to the treatment area.
Radiographers, on the other hand, are trained in the use of medical imaging equipment for diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of patients. The high quality medical images they produce help clinicians and specialists describe, diagnose, monitor and treat a person’s injury or illness.
In Australia, radiation therapists and radiographers are accredited and registered professionals and they are an integral part of the multidisciplinary treatment team.
In recognition of these vital members of the healthcare team, each year Arterie presents the radiation oncology department with a special artwork. Arterie is our art engagement program where patients and staff come together to create communal pieces of art, in this case in the official colours for National Radiographers & Radiation Therapists’ Week – blue, orange and white.
Arterie founder Deborah Burdett presented this year’s artwork to the director of radiation oncology, A/Prof Chris Milross on 17 October. It is a series of five pieces by five different patients, each coordinated with patterns of beading and stitching on top of blue and white printed linen. They are now framed and displayed next to each other in the hallway leading to the radiation therapy rooms.
The works were done as a take-home project during summer, when the Arterie program had closed over the Christmas break.
“The ladies who come to the Arterie Open Studio every week really like to have consistency, so we give them a take-home project,” Deborah says. “It gave them plenty of time to do it and us plenty of time to get it framed and ready.”
Last year’s project, Weaving into Wellbeing, was based on Justin Hill’s award-winning design, 22 Temenggong Road, Twilight. Justin was awarded the 2016 Tapestry Design Prize for Architects by the Australian Tapestry Workshop. Armed with hand-held looms and top-quality Australian wool, the Lifehouse Arterie community created this magnificent collection.
“Weaving is a great project to do from the hospital bed,” Deborah explains. “It’s something that’s very easy to learn, it’s very meditative, and patients can sit up in bed and do it.”
Each woven piece was framed and displayed in the collection that permanently resides in the Radiation Oncology building. Some of them have taken on special meaning as the patients who made them have sadly passed away.
“They are lovely pieces to leave in the hospital,” she says. “Anything with bright colour really does add a lot of joy and happiness to the hospital.”
This isn’t the only week that Arterie recognises however, with the program creating artworks to celebrate events all year round.
Arterie Open Studio works as a diversion therapy for patients and carers. It provides a safe space for participants where they don’t have to talk about their illness but can make friends, have fun and learn new skills.
“We find that for some people we are a major support group. Art and craft very much helps with depression and the sense of isolation. There is a lot of positivity to come from working together on something. Patients and staff find great fulfilment in making an artwork together.
Deborah and her team of patients and volunteers are currently preparing handmade artworks for their annual Christmas market – Markarterie. And they have also already started work on the radiation oncology project for 2020.