College’s VERT system is one of only two in the state and one of 24 in the country.
PITTSBURGH-Students in the Radiation
Therapy Technology Program at the Community College of Allegheny
County are training on equipment just like that used at leading
teaching hospitals around the world. Last fall, the college
acquired a Virtual Environment in Radiotherapy Training (VERT)
system that enables students to practice direct hands-on skills in
a radiation-free virtual setting without risk to the patient. The
virtual simulator replicates the controls of a linear accelerator,
which delivers targeted doses of radiation to cancer patients,
bringing the level of training typically used in clinical settings
into the classroom. CCAC's Allegheny Campus is one of two
institutions in the state that houses the technology, the other one
being Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, which is the
only other institution to offer a Radiation Therapy program in
While looking at a three-dimensional
image on a screen, students can manipulate the handheld controls of
a linear accelerator and send a simulated radiation beam through
the body of a virtual patient, observing exactly where the beam
goes. The students are also able to look at cross-sectional anatomy
and see how critical structures fit together-something they can't
do in the clinic-helping them learn how to properly identify target
areas on CT scans.
Kelli Collette, associate professor
and program director, believes the technology is giving CCAC
students an edge because they go into the clinic with more
confidence and enhanced technical abilities. Students begin using
the advanced technology on the first day of classes.
"The VERT system is significant
because when students go to clinic they're more prepared, and when
they're more prepared they're more confident, and when they're more
confident their performance is better," said
Collette. "They get real hands-on learning, and they can
make a mistake and not be worried that they're going to harm a
patient. We're so excited to have this system and so thrilled for
the support that CCAC has given to us."
The system, at a cost of $209,651,
was purchased with funds from a Carl. D. Perkins Career and
Technical Education grant. The demand for skilled radiation
therapists is growing, particularly with the construction of new
medical facilities in the region, according to Collette. She is
seeking to add new clinical sites in order to increase the number
of students admitted to the program, which is offered in both
associate of science degree and certificate options. Applications
are accepted between January 1 and March 31 each year for the
certificate program, and between January 1 and March 31 in odd
years for the associate degree program.
For more information about CCAC's
Radiation Therapy Technology Program, contact Collette at email@example.com or
the Allied Health secretary, Sue Manno, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo: CCAC Radiation Therapy
Technology student Tyler Wehrle demonstrates use of the VERT system
at Allegheny Campus.