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Professional/Education/Science Policies

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Policy number Policy name Policy date Sunset date
PP 22-B AAPM Position Statement on the Role of Medical Physicists in Providing Quality Medical Care 7/31/2008 12/31/2013
Policy source
July 31, 2008 Board of Directors' Meeting Minutes
Policy text

Medical Physics is the branch of physics that is associated with the practice of medicine. The joint policy document "Scope of Practice of Medical Physics" states (1), "the essential responsibility of the Qualified Medical Physicist's clinical practice is to assure the safe and effective delivery of radiation to achieve a diagnostic or therapeutic result as prescribed in patient care." The clinical practice of Medical Physics is focused on accuracy, safety and quality in radiation oncology, medical imaging, image-guided medical procedures, and medical radiation safety, as well as on innovative research and development in the aforementioned disciplines and the dissemination of scientific and technical information for the professional development of healthcare workers involved in these disciplines.

The medical physicist works collaboratively with physician colleagues, biomedical engineers, radiologic technologists, radiation therapists, radiation dosimetrists, nurses and others, often providing supervision and oversight of non-physician professionals to ensure that all radiation producing and related equipment remains suitably calibrated, that dose determinations are accurate, and that all imaging modalities are functioning at their optimal levels. The medical physicist's primary professional responsibility is to the patient's safety and welfare.

Qualified Medical Physicists (2) have a unique combination of education and training in physics principles, radiation physics applications, dosimetry planning, radiobiological principles, human anatomy and oncology principles, as well as safety analysis and quality control methods. A fully trained medical physicist demonstrates competence by obtaining certification by the appropriate certifying board in the subspecialty of practice (American Board of Radiology, American Board of Medical Physics, American Board of Science in Nuclear Medicine, or Canadian College of Physicists in Medicine), and is considered a Qualified Medical Physicist by pursuing continuing education and adhering to the Code of Ethics of the American Association of Physics in Medicine as published by the AAPM (3).

Qualified Medical Physicists working in clinical, research or educational environments, due to their training and professional focus, are therefore crucial to the delivery of quality radiation therapy, performance of quality medical imaging, and protection of healthcare workers, patients and the general public from the potentially harmful effects of radiation and other physical phenomena such as magnetic fields and ultrasound. As such, Qualified Medical Physicists serve a crucial role that is in the interests of the local, national and international communities.

(1) AAPM Policy PP 17 - Scope of Practice of Medical Physics (ACMP & AAPM)

(2) AAPM Policy PP 1 - Definition of A Qualified Medical Physicist

(3) AAPM Policy PP 24 titled "Code of Ethics of the American Association of Physicists in Medicine"

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