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Radiological emergency preparedness: a survey of nuclear medicine technologists in the United States

Miriam E Van Dyke, Lisa C McCormick, Norman E Bolus, Jesse Pevear, Ziad N Kazzi
Journal of Nuclear Medicine Technology 2013, 41 (3): 223-30

UNLABELLED: Because of the increasing risk of radiological emergencies, public health agencies and first-response organizations are working to increase their capability of responding. Nuclear medicine technologists (NMTs) have expertise in certain areas, such as radiation safety, radiobiology, decontamination, and the use of radiation detection and monitoring equipment, that could be useful during the response to events that involve radiological materials.

METHODS: To better understand the potential role that NMTs may have in response efforts, a cross-sectional survey was conducted. The survey was sent electronically to the 7,000 members of the Technology Section of the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging. Eight hundred fifty NMTs responded to the survey, for a response rate of 12.14%. The study queried NMTs across the United States on their knowledge of using radiation detection and monitoring equipment, such as a scintillation γ-cameras, Geiger counters, thyroid probes, well counters, and portal monitors; willingness to participate in response efforts during a nuclear reactor accident, nuclear weapon detonation, or dirty bomb detonation; access to radiation detection and monitoring equipment within their work setting; familiarity with current preparedness guidance and tools provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; and registration in volunteer initiatives such as the Emergency System for Advance Registration of Volunteer Health Professionals, Metropolitan Medical Response System, and Medical Reserve Corps.

RESULTS: Survey results suggest that NMTs are knowledgeable and willing to respond to radiological emergencies, regardless of number of years of work experience. Radiological preparedness training within the last 5 y significantly increases NMTs' willingness to respond and familiarity with current guidance and tools provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Department of Health and Human Services. Respondents reported a low participation level in volunteer programs, and most agreed that continuing education should include radiological emergency preparedness.

CONCLUSION: NMTs should be considered an untapped resource and should be strategically recruited for involvement in radiological emergency preparedness planning and training. NMTs should also consider becoming involved in local volunteer initiatives because they have the knowledge and willingness to provide assistance during a radiological emergency.

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