Medical physics is the application of physics to medicine. It generally concerns physics as applied to medical imaging and radiotherapy, although a medical physicist may also work in many other areas of healthcare. A medical physics department may be based in either a hospital or a university and its work is likely to include research, technical development, and clinical healthcare.
Of the large body of medical physicists in academia and clinics, roughly 85% practice or specialize in various forms of therapy, 10% in diagnostic imaging, and 5% in nuclear medicine. Areas of specialty in medical physics however are widely varied in scope and breadth.
Used to monitor and measure various physiological parameters. Many physiological measurement techniques are non-invasive and can be used in conjunction with, or as an alternative to, other invasive methods.
In the United States of America the supply of medical physicists has historically outpaced demand. Currently there are very few restrictions for any individual to practice medical physics in most of the United States.
Since 1999 efforts have been made to pass the Consistency, Accuracy, Responsibility, and Excellence in Medical Imaging and Radiation Therapy also called the CARE Bill which can be better understood as a House Resolution. In 2009 the CARE bill is considered as House Resolution 3652. This bill attempts to mandate that states which receive federal Medicaid funds must establish minimum qualifications for individuals to practice medical physics. Many speculate that wording in House Resolution 3652 will place a reliance on certification processes by a regulating body. This will likely play an increasingly important role in establishing minimum qualifications to practice medical physics on new graduates. One such regulating body could be the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of the United States of America government or a non-government self-regulating agency such as the Tucson, Arizona based American Board of Radiology. Only Texas, New York and Florida require specialized training for medical physicists to be classifed as an authorized user of radioactive material (see NRC designation of authorized medical physicist). Many other job titles have less stringent training requirements for designation of authorized users.
In North America, medical physics training is offered at a master's, doctorate, post-doctorate and/or residency levels. Several universities offer these degrees in Canada and the United States. (Bear in mind that the supply of medical physicists in the USA has outpaced the demand.) Some programs offer dual medical residency and Ph.D. degrees in medical physics.
As of 2008, twelve universities in the United States, and five universities in Canada have graduate programs in medical physics that are accredited by The Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Education Programs (CAMPEP). In order to influence government policy a strong recommendation from the American Association of Physicists in Medicine has been made to the American Board of Radiology that specifies that graduation from a CAMPEP-accredited training program be considered a requirement to sit for the ABR certification exams beginning in 2012.
The AAPM request to requiring graduation from a CAMPEP-accredited residency was recently extended from beginning in 2012 to 2014. As of 2008, the number of medical physics graduate programs that are not accredited significantly outnumber the CAMPEP accredited programs in North America .
The person concerned must first gain a first or upper second-class honours degree in a physical or engineering science subject before they can start the Grade A medical physics training within the NHS.
Trainees can complete Grade A training in fifteen months provided they hold an MSc from an IPEM accredited center in the United Kingdom or the Republic of Ireland (National University of Ireland, Galway). For these candidates, the grade A training consists of pure clinical experience. Trainees applying for grade A trainee holding only a degree in a engineering or physical science subject must undertake a combined study and clinical training programme. This programme consists of two years of clinical placement, during which the trainee will study for an MSc in Medical Physics which is approved by the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM). The MSc will be either at Swansea, Sheffield, Surrey, Birmingham, Leeds, Manchester, Aberdeen, King's or Queen Mary's. Open University also offers a Master of Science in Medical Physics, but the prospective student should first check that this degree will satisfy the accreditation requirements or that it is accepted before embarking on it. Successful completion of the Grade A training programme leads to an IPEM Diploma. The trainee can then apply for a Grade B position, which will consists of the IPEM's Programme of Advanced Training (PAT) which takes a further two years and leads to Corporate Membership of the IPEM. At this stage the physicist is eligible for Senior Grade B positions.