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Radiation Therapy Program (Minnesota)

Curriculum

Student and faculty member using a VERT classroom learning tool as part of the curriculum for the Radiation Therapy Program for training to become a radiation therapist.

Student experiences

The Radiation Therapy Program is designed to provide you with experience in all areas of radiation oncology. Courses take place in a specific sequence, progressively building on your expertise as you advance through the program. Academic coursework is coordinated with clinical rotations to optimize the learning experiences.

Classroom learning

This program is a full-time program. You will spend an average of 15-20 hours a week in classroom lecture (didactic) instruction, with the remaining time in clinical training and rotations.

Clinical training

You’ll begin observing and working with patients as soon as the second week of the program. After morning didactic lectures, you’ll apply your knowledge immediately in clinical training. During your clinical education, you’ll observe and participate in special treatment techniques, including:

  • Deep inspiration breath hold
  • Stereotactic body radiation therapy
  • Total body irradiation
  • Proton beam therapy
  • Intraoperative radiotherapy (IORT)
  • Brachytherapy
  • Leksell Gamma Knife radiosurgery

On-site rotations

During monthly rotations, under the supervision of qualified radiation therapists and in collaboration with several members of the health care team, you have learning opportunities in all aspects of radiation oncology, simulation, treatment, and dosimetry.

Off-site rotations

All students participate in off-site rotations to Mayo Clinic Health System locations in Mankato, Minnesota; Northfield, Minnesota; and La Crosse, Wisconsin. Students may also elect to rotate to the radiation oncology facility in Albert Lea, Minnesota.

The purpose of the off-site rotations is to provide students with experience at smaller, non-academic cancer centers. Students will have the opportunity to see different treatment techniques, equipment, and enhance their ability to adapt to a new center’s routine in preparation for employment.

Students are responsible for driving to these sites for a two- or three-day rotation. While it is your responsibility to commute to these sites, Mayo Clinic provides assistance with housing and travel. During the rotation, you receive didactic course work via a videoconferencing system. It is recommended that each student have his or her own laptop computer to complete homework assignments while off-site.

Ample hands-on patient experience

Ample hands-on patient experience

"This program prepared me for my career by providing me with ample time to learn and participate in CT simulation, dosimetric planning, and radiation treatment. This program gave me a great educational and clinical foundation in these modalities to feel confident in my role."

- Kristen Dezell, RTT, graduated in 2018 and is now a radiation therapist at Mayo Clinic's campus in Minnesota.

Facilities

Mayo Clinic's campus in Rochester, Minnesota, includes an extensive outpatient complex, Mayo Clinic Hospital — Rochester, and substantial research and education facilities. This Mayo Clinic site is among the largest, most advanced medical centers in the world.

Mayo Clinic's Department of Radiation Oncology has exceptional patient care facilities with advanced therapy equipment, which includes:

  • Six Varian TrueBeam linear accelerators with View Station and ARIA treatment verification software
  • Two Siemens CT simulators
  • An Xstrahl orthovoltage unit
  • An integrated brachytherapy unit
  • A dedicated linear accelerator intraoperative therapy suite
  • A Leksell Gamma Knife

In addition, Mayo Clinic Radiation Oncology has a proton beam therapy treatment program that includes four treatment rooms equipped with intensity modulated pencil beam scanning, two CT simulators, and a MRI unit. Students have two rotations through the proton center, allowing them to gain experience with this newest treatment modality. Our students also participate in dosimetry planning utilizing Eclipse 3-D and IMRT-capable planning system.

Hours and schedule

For the majority of the program, your learning schedule includes eight-hour days, five days a week. Hours are 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., Monday through Friday. There are also two clinical QA labs conducted on a Saturday morning in February and March.

Course sequence

The Radiation Therapy Program requires completion of three semesters of courses, which totals 45.5 upper division credits. All courses are taught in Rochester, Minnesota, using a combination of face-to-face and video conference delivery.

Fall semester (September to December)

Course numberCourse nameCredits
RTT 3501 Introduction to Radiation Therapy 2
RTT 3521 Patient Care in Radiation Oncology 2
RTT 3561 Cross-Sectional Anatomy 3
RTT 3541 Pathology 2
RTT 3551 Radiation Oncology Physics 4
RTT 3596 Clinical Practicum I 4
Total credits   17

Spring semester (January to May)

Course numberCourse nameCredits
RTT 3581  Principles and Practices of Radiation Therapy I  4.5 
RTT 4511  Dosimetry and Treatment Planning 
RTT 3701  Advanced Radiobiology and Radiation Protection 
RTT 3601 Clinical Quality Assurance and Computer Applications 
RTT 3696 Clinical Practicum II 
Total credits    17.5 

Summer semester (June to August)

Course numberCourse nameCredits
RTT 4581 Principles and Practices of Radiation Therapy II 3
RTT 4611 Operational Issues in Radiation Therapy 
RTT 4601  Research Project 
RTT 4596 Clinical Practicum III
Board Exam Review 0
Total credits    11

Academic breaks

The program is not in session during:

  • Thanksgiving (Wednesday through Friday)
  • Christmas (1.5 weeks)
  • Spring break (one week — typically the second week of March)
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Graduation (August)

See the full 2020-2021 academic calendar.

Graduation and certification

To successfully complete the program, you must meet these requirements:

  • A cumulative GPA of 2.5 or better on a 4.0 scale
  • Successful completion of classroom (didactic) coursework and all clinical competencies
  • Be in good standing with all program policies

Upon successful completion of the Radiation Therapy Program, you will receive a certificate of completion from Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences.

Graduates may apply to take the national registry examination administered by The American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.

Grading and evaluation

All course work must be completed with a grade of a C or above. The grading scale is below. As you move through the Radiation Therapy Program's clinical rotations, you will be evaluated in each clinical area by the supervising therapists and the clinical supervisors. A competency-based evaluation system and performance appraisal forms are used to evaluate clinical performance.

Grading scale

Didactic and clinical course work is graded on an A to F scale. Grade points of A = 4.0, B = 3.0, C = 2.0, D = 1.0, and F = 0 for each credit hour earned will be assigned on the Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences transcript.

Percentage achievedCourse grade
93-100 A
90-92 A-
87-89 B+
83-86 B
80-82 B-
77-79 C+
73-76 C
70-72 C-
<70 F

Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences uses evaluative tools that include: Written examination, oral presentation, demonstration of skills, and faculty reviews. Failure to meet or maintain the academic or clinical standards may necessitate remedial work of subject matter, as well as possible evaluation for probation or dismissal. 

Mayo Clinic's system of evaluation provides students and faculty with a comprehensive look at individual performance. This allows faculty and administrative staff to direct students who are experiencing academic difficulty to the appropriate support resources, including tutoring programs and counseling opportunities.

Meet the faculty

The Radiation Therapy Program is coordinated and taught by the clinical, scientific, and technical staff of Mayo Clinic. These include radiation therapists, dosimetrists, nurses, physicians, and physicists from the Department of Radiation Oncology. You have direct access to these individuals throughout your training, giving you the opportunity to learn from experienced practitioners in radiation oncology.

Leila Bussman-Yeakel, M.Ed., R.T.(R)(T)

Leila Bussman-Yeakel, M.Ed., R.T.(R)(T)
Program Director

Leila Bussman-Yeakel joined the Radiation Therapy Program in 1984. She graduated from Swedish American Hospital’s Radiography and Radiation Therapy Programs in 1980 and 1981 and obtained a bachelor’s degree from University of St. Francis in 1987. Ms. Bussman-Yeakel received her master's degree in adult education in 2008 from the University of Minnesota.

Ms. Bussman-Yeakel’s teaching responsibilities include: Introduction to Radiation Therapy, Pathology, Principles and Practice of Radiation Therapy, Operational Issues, Radiobiology, and Board Exam Review. She is a contributor to the Washington and Leaver textbook on Principles and Practice of Radiation Therapy on GI Malignancies and Merrill’s Atlas of Radiographic Positions and Radiographic Procedures’ chapter on Radiation Oncology. In addition, she serves as a Site Visitor and Team Chair for the Joint Review Committee on Education in Radiologic Technology. 

Jodi Buchholtz, B.S.,R.T.(R)(T)

Jodi Buchholtz, B.S.,R.T.(R)(T)
Clinical Supervisor/Preceptor

Jodi Buchholtz joined the Radiation Therapy Program in 2001 as Clinical Supervisor. She joined Mayo Clinic after graduating from Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences' Radiation Therapy Program in 1989.

Ms. Buchholtz obtained her Bachelor of Science in radiologic sciences from Ohio State University in 1988. She provides clinical instruction and evaluation of students’ clinical performance and competency exams throughout the program.

Jacqueline Saltness, B.S., R.T.(R)(T)

Jacqueline Saltness, B.S., R.T.(R)(T)
Clinical Supervisor/Preceptor

Jacqueline Saltness joined the Radiation Therapy Program in 1991 as Clinical Supervisor. Ms. Saltness began her career at Mayo Clinic after graduating from Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences' Radiation Therapy Program in 1986. She also worked in dosimetry at Mayo Clinic for two years before accepting a position with the program.

Ms. Saltness completed the Marion Health Center – Sioux City, Iowa, Radiography Program in 1985 and obtained her Bachelor of Science in health arts from the University of St. Francis in 1993.

Ms. Saltness provides clinical instruction and evaluation of students’ clinical performance and competency exams throughout the program.

C.Robert Blackwell, M.S.

Robert Blackwell, M.S.
Physics Faculty

Mr. C. Robert Blackwell joined the Radiation Therapy Program faculty in 1986 as a physics instructor. In addition to teaching, Mr. Blackwell assists with the development and coordination of all physics instruction. Mr. Blackwell received his master’s degree in physics from the University of South Carolina in 1982, a master’s degree in public health from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 1984, and a master’s degree in biomedical sciences from Mayo Clinic Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences in 1994.

Mr. Blackwell’s teaching responsibilities have included General Physics and Mathematics, Radiation Physics, Quality Assurance, and Board Exam Review sessions.

Janelle Braun, R.P.T.

Janelle Braun, R.P.T.
Health Physics Associate, Radiation Protection Technologist

Janelle Braun joined the Radiation Therapy Program faculty in 1999 as a Radiation Protection instructor. Ms. Braun received her bachelor’s degree in environmental studies from Hamline University in 1979 and became a registered radiation protection technologist in 1989.

Ms. Braun develops and coordinates instruction for the Radiation Protection and Safety curriculum for the Radiation Therapy and Nuclear Medicine programs.