Navigating COVID-19: A Message from the COMP Board on How Medical Physicists Can Help
These are difficult and trying times in the face of an unknown threat to the welfare of our community. Federal and provincial authorities are in the process of requesting and implementing changes to the delivery of health services that can have an impact on the services offered by medical physicists. The COMP board would like to propose some general thoughts for navigating these troubled times.
Medical physicists may be asked to reduce or modify their activities as a result of measures to prevent disease spread. It is important to prioritize and maintain frequent and essential QA activities such as routine checks on radiotherapy or imaging equipment, patient specific QA for complex procedures, other routine patient-oriented tasks where applicable and radiation safety tasks. Non-essential activities such as on-site research, teaching, and infrequent QA like annual checks should be considered for either delay and/or where possible, performed at distance. Any opportunity for performing routine activities in a way to minimize person-to-person contact (remote access, conducting work outside normal hours) should be explored. Notwithstanding; no change should be made by medical physicists that could compromise the quality of the therapeutic or diagnostic services being offered.
Medical physicists should engage and collaborate with other health professionals (i.e., physicians, technologists, nurses) and institution management when there is discussion of any ramp-down or change to clinical activities. We should also actively engage with our colleagues in discussions surrounding the safe use of equipment, patient consultation or measurements and minimum on-site expertise to carry out specific medical physics tasks. Medical physicists may also be asked by their employer to perform tasks outside their scope of practice, such as clerical or logistical tasks, especially if other personnel are affected by the virus. It is important for us to comply with such requests if the integrity of health care services is to be maintained.
Medical physicists should follow government, health authority and institutional guidelines in carrying out their tasks so as to protect themselves, colleagues, patients and their environment. Particular care should be exercised when using communal equipment to ensure it does not become a source of virus spread. Every opportunity to work at a distance (from office, from home) should be explored and encouraged, and the use of online tools for teaching and communicating is encouraged.
While as medical physicists we are generally asked to work within our clinical scope of practice, the fact remains that we are highly inquisitive and scientifically creative people, whose general scientific knowledge can be of use to solve a variety of problems. The current crisis will impose the need for creative solutions and medical physicists are encouraged to offer their knowledge when appropriate or opportune.
COMP is committed to the dissemination of information for medical physicists. We invite our members to share thoughts, challenges and innovative ideas with the COMP community, and to benefit from the suggestions of others via email to email@example.com, via twitter to @medphysCA, facebook or LinkedIn
COMP will be monitoring the situation and the recommendations from various governmental authorities and pledges to disseminate any information specifically relevant to medical physicists as it becomes available. As many of our members will continue to work at the visible forefront of our healthcare system, we encourage everyone to do what is necessary to stay safe.