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Major boost for radiotherapy training

27 Mawrth 2008

Virtual reality training

The School of Healthcare Studies has won funding for a ground-breaking virtual training system which allows radiotherapists to practise their skills in a completely safe environment.

Health Minister, Edwina Hart, announced that the School’s Department of Radiography had been successful in its bid to the NHS Capital Expenditure Scheme for funding to install Virtual Environment Radiotherapy Training facilities.

Dr. Paul Brown, who led the £358,000 bid along with colleagues Keren Williamson and Lynn Mundy, 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."

Radiotherapy is a treatment for patients with cancer and some non-malignant disorders which utilises the biological effects of high energy X-rays and other ionising radiations. 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. Therapy radiographers are involved in many stages of a patient's treatment.

Tracking the user through a series of sensors, the sophisticated new equipment creates a simulated environment which is then projected onto screens via the computer software. The student user is immersed into the ‘virtual world’ of a 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.