Alberta Cancer Foundation

Getting Personal With Cynthia Stulp

Illustration by Pete Ryan.

Cynthia Stulp, manager of the radiation therapy department at Calgary’s Tom Baker Cancer Centre, always wanted to work in health care. For Stulp, radiation therapy is the perfect combination of working with innovative technology and caring for patients.

A radiation therapist is an important part of a patient’s medical team — they deliver treatment via radiation machines, work on treatment plans and provide information to patients. Here, Stulp discusses the importance of caring for all aspects of a patient’s health.

Q: Can you describe what you do in 10 words or less?

Oversight of the operations of the radiation therapy department. That goes right from treatment planning all the way to finishing active radiation treatment.

Q: What would you like people to know about your position?

As a radiation therapist, the impact we have on patients is incredible. Because a patient comes every single day, for up to 35 treatments, we really form a relationship with the patient.

Q: Are there any misconceptions about what you do?

There’s a misconception that management or operational leaders only care about the dollars and the number of patients that go through the system. Yes, we do care about that — we need to be fiscally responsible and to make sure that our staff is accountable. However, what guides us in doing all of that is what our patients need. What are our patients experiencing? How do we make it better for our patients? We don’t just stop at, ‘Okay, we’re good enough.’ We want to be the best all the time. We advocate constantly for our areas and for our staff and for our patients.

Q: What is the most important thing to you when considering a patient’s well-being?

That their well-being goes beyond just the physical. It goes to their spiritual well-being, as well as their mental health. Knowledge is power for patients. Bring in their friends and family and get them involved in their care as well. That will go a long way.

Q: What is your approach as a care provider?

Appropriate compassion and empathy for patients. Most of them have come to terms with [their cancer] by the time they come in for their radiation treatment. That doesn’t mean they’re not still worried or scared or anxious. Having the appropriate amount of compassion and empathy for them is vital to their success. Take your cue from your patient. Let them steer where things are going to go. Then as a health-care provider, react appropriately to that.