Willianne Sijtema, senior radio-therapeutic laboratory technician

“The work we do bonds us as a team” Willianne Sijtema started her job as a radio-therapeutic laboratory technician at the LUMC six years ago. Being able to add value for patients who are in a very uncertain period of their lives is the most beautiful aspect of her work, Willianne thinks.

Why did you choose to work in this field?
“Mainly because of the contact with patients. The beautiful thing about radiotherapy is that you see patients multiple times, you guide them throughout the entire process of beam radiation therapy. This can be intense, and you need to be able to deal with that: everybody in the department is suffering from cancer and that can sometimes really get to me. But the patients are here for a reason, and together we aim to achieve the best result.”

What does that look like in practice?
“The process consists of three steps: the first time the patient comes here, it is in preparation for the treatment. We make a CT scan to determine what the best posture is during the execution of the irradiation. For example, if someone has a tumor in their lungs, they can raise their arms during the irradiation. The next step is to make a treatment plan based on the results of the CT scan. After all these steps are done, the biggest step of all follows: the treatment itself.” 

What makes your work challenging?
“I was looking for a combination of healthcare and technology, and I have found that here. In addition, the work is very dynamic, every patient is different. Irradiation is detailed work, it is very important that the tumor receives the correct doses. It comes down to millimeters, because we want to spare the organs surrounding the tumor as much as possible. Therefore, the CT scan is a test posture: we need to find a posture that enables the patient to lay as still as possible, because they’re not allowed to move. This can sometimes be difficult, because the irradiation may take up to thirty minutes.”

How’s the team? How much do you work together during the process?
“We prefer working in a team, because it decreases the chance of overlooking something. Therefore, we check everything we do from each other. This means you should be able to deal with criticism, but at the same time it creates an open, honest and informal atmosphere. Because of the heavy weight of our responsibilities, we have a very close relationship with each other and share private matters more easily.”

In the meantime, you have become a senior. What are your ambitions for the future?
“I’m not sure which direction I want to move in. At this department, there are many chances for development, partly because of the hospital being academic. A lot of research is done here and I have already worked on several research projects. I could also specialize myself in one of these subjects, for instance the CT scan, or choose for a higher position: this would mean I would become an advanced practitioner, and that I could educate myself in new techniques and developments surrounding the subject. Whatever I choose to do, there are plenty of possibilities for me to develop myself.”