Radiation Therapy Students Use Innovative New Technology

VERT, a virtual environment for radiation therapy training, is a state-of-the-art teaching tool that offers a safe, non-pressured environment for students to practice simulated radiation therapy techniques with 3D views and life-size visualizations.

Gwynedd Mercy University received a generous grant last year from the George I. Alden Trust, as well as an estate gift from a former GMercyU professor, to purchase VERT for the University's Radiation Therapy students.

VERT allows faculty to supplement lectures with a lab that demonstrates techniques, with students able to look "inside" the patient and to practice, explore, and investigate treatments before entering a real-world clinical experience.

With the VERT system, students can learn about the imaging of treatment fields, radiation beam characteristics, planning theories, and more. Students are able to view DICOM (digital imaging communication in medicine) images to virtually set up a patient on a treatment table, and view the treatment field and vital structures in 3D. Students can observe an intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) treatment as it moves across the patient's skin and through their internal organs, and they can practice techniques, operating and experiencing everything the linear accelerator accomplishes - except administering a real-life therapeutic dose of radiation.

VERT arrived on campus in early fall 2020. While COVID prevented in-person training on the VERT, GMercyU faculty were able to learn the basics of the equipment through virtual training, and sophomores, juniors, and seniors in the Radiation Therapy program began using it this past spring.

The timing proved exceptionally beneficial when Radiation Therapy sophomores were unable to be assigned to clinical sites last spring due to the pandemic, and therefore were unable to get the hands-on experience that comes from being in a radiation therapy department.

"VERT was very much a welcome addition to educating our students," said Rose Troutman, MS, RT (T), Program Coordinator of the Radiation Therapy program. "Because of VERT, our sophomores were able to utilize the equipment and experienced the basic operation of the workings of the linear accelerator. Last summer, they were permitted back into the clinical sites and were grateful for the hands-on experience that they had gained working with VERT. It gave them an edge with handling the linear accelerator at the clinical site."

With international travel restrictions loosening, the UK-based VERT trainer visits campus in mid-November to teach GMercyU faculty the advanced features of the equipment.

This article originally appeared in GMercyU's latest President's Report.