Q & A with Allison Johnson
What is your title?
Assistant Director of Radiation Therapy/ Information System Administrator
What training have you completed?
Bachelor of Applied Science (Medical Radiation Technology) – Radiation Therapy
Masters of Health Management
My first job was…
I was a ‘checkout chick’ at Target. I started when I was 16 and worked there while at high school and university.
To explain to people what I do I say…
I treat cancer patients with radiation.
What is the hardest part about your job?
The hardest part is treating patients who may be at a similar age or life experience and knowing that their prognosis is poor or hearing about the worries a patient may have about their disease. Often you connect with patients and their family over the course of treatment and it’s hard when things don’t go well for that person.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy working with patients and trying to make their experience with us as pleasant and comfortable as possible. I also enjoy the mix of medical and technological knowledge that is required to do our job.
How long have you been working at Lifehouse?
I have worked at Lifehouse since it opened in 2013.
What attracted you to working at Lifehouse?
Our department transitioned from Royal Prince Alfred Hopsital and I was attracted by the vision of having all cancer services in the one location and building a world class facility.
My biggest achievement so far…
Personally, my biggest achievements are my beautiful children. Professionally it is completing my Master’s degree while my children were little. It required a high degree of motivation and determination to get it done.
To unwind at the end of the day I…
Like to read, watch TV and spend time with family and friends.
Can you describe the role you play in people’s cancer journey?
Apart from the technical and clinical aspect of treating patients with radiation therapy, my job is to support the teams delivering the treatment and ensure that our patients are given the best possible care every day that come into our department.
Why did you choose this field of work? What does it offer to others and to you?
I choose Radiation Therapy because it was a great mix of clinical and technical knowledge, I also loved Maths and Science subjects at school so this was a great profession to keep up my interests.
We have a rapidly changing profession and there are always new developments either in technology or the techniques used to treat patients which helps keep the work interesting and varied.
How has your role evolved from when you began?
This profession has changed dramatically since I first trained and will continue to grow as technology advances. When I was a student, we had to take and develop x-ray films to check the patient’s positioning – now it is done instantly on computers. Heavy lead blocks were used to shape the radiation beam and had to be positioned manually by the Radiation Therapists. Now the beam can be shaped using equipment inside the machine which makes the treatment faster and less physically intensive for the treatment team.
Do you work in an interdisciplinary team, and how does this help or hinder your part in treatment?
Radiation Oncology is a multidisciplinary department whereby Radiation Therapists work alongside the Radiation Oncologists and Medical Physicists to deliver the optimum treatment plan. We also work with Allied Health and nursing staff to ensure that the patients are cared for while they are receiving treatment.
Has someone in your life been affected by the disease?
I have had family members affected by the disease as well as the family members of many close friends.
Can you tell us about a particular patient who has had an impact on you?
Early in my career, I worked in a department that treated paediatrics (children). One little boy was five and we had such a special connection. He has such a beautiful soul and I looked forward to seeing him every day. One day he even asked me to be his girlfriend, much to his parent’s amusement! I often wonder about him and what happened after he finished treatment. I hope he has gone on to have a happy and fulfilling life.