Why Have All the Dosimetrists Gone Remote?

As an experiment, we recently posted a dosimetrist position twice. First, we posted it as an on-site role, needing to be in the clinic daily. Second, we posted it as a fully remote position. Can you guess which one received more responses? We received 43 candidates for the remote position within 24 hours, while ZERO were received for the onsite position. Sound familiar? You don’t need to rewind the clock very far to remember when dosimetry was done 100% on-site. In today’s post, we explore how this shift happened, whether the market is ready for it, and strategies to succeed. 

First technology made it possible

Advances in treatment planning systems, coupled with long-standing remote-access capabilities created an environment for the last 10+ years that made remote planning possible. However, the vast majority of clinics remained adamant the work needed to be done in the clinic – as it had always been. Given the close working relationship between dosimetrists and physicians, this inertia against change is unsurprising. But early adopters were starting to see the potential. 

Then the pandemic made it necessary

When COVID locked everything down in the spring of 2020, radiation oncology clinics did what everyone else did – moved every function that could be done remotely, out of the clinic. What resulted was an immediate, unplanned, large-scale experiment in remote dosimetry. Clinics across the country, from small community practices to large academic institutions, put remote dosimetry into practice. Some sites went 100% remote, while others experimented with hybrid on-site/remote models. The result? While change was hard, remote dosimetry was a resounding success with high-quality plans seamlessly being created.

Ultimately, the labor market is telling us it is here to stay

The COVID emergency has abated and been replaced by widespread labor shortages. Which brings us back to the current state of recruiting talented dosimetrists. Applicants for on-site positions have decreased dramatically, while applicants for remote positions have exploded. 

Aspekt Solutions, as a leading provider of remote dosimetry solutions over the last three years, has discovered several keys to success in remote dosimetry:

  1. Be intentional in building team culture Trust, learning, camaraderie, and friendships form naturally when everyone is physically together; working remotely requires intention to make it happen. Leaders must proactively create opportunities for relationship building. As studies show, relationships create engaged team members, which leads to trust, efficiency and job satisfaction, which are critical to retaining remote talent. Face-to-face time has real value, particularly to get a relationship started. Commit to travel and budget for it yearly to strengthen the connections. Using video calls for weekly rounds is also a great way to help remote dosimetrists feel like part of the team.
  2. Design a model that works for you and your team Not every remote team is the same. Some remote staff live nearby and work from home while others live across the country. Hybrid onsite/remote models are common and can take on many variations. The key to success is to create flexibility and equity for staff. Tenured staff who have worked their entire career onsite may feel resentment when new teammates are hired and work 100% remote. A solution we’ve found is to add flexibility and hybrid options for all staff to create a successful team model.  
  3. Strategize on how each role (onsite vs remote) will be structured Creating treatment plans remotely is straightforward; all the other ways dosimetrists interact as part of the treatment team is harder (e.g. answering questions from therapists and doctors, collaborating on projects, and printing plans). These activities can end up piled onto the onsite team, leading to frustration and burnout. Will working hours be different for remote resources (off hours vs. regular business hours)? Should remote resources have different productivity expectations because they are unburdened from in-clinic activities? These and other such questions should be openly discussed and answered before moving positions remote.
  4. Create a secure and efficient IT environment Make sure your IT infrastructure keeps up with security protocols, and speed/bandwidth requirements to make remote work efficient and secure. Slow or unstable systems create frustration across the team while reducing productivity and engagement. 
  5. Think outside the FTE box All of our years doing work onsite make us all think about capacity on a per full-time employee (FTE) basis. Changing capacity or gaining the benefits of efficiency from automation largely had to happen in increments of one FTE. With remote resources, it is easier to implement flexible staffing models. Per plan, or other atypical compensation structures can be an effective tool to flex costs and capacity to short and long-term volume peaks and valleys.