The roles of medical health physicists in a medical radiation emergency

Health Phys. 2007 Nov;93(5 Suppl):S187-90. doi: 10.1097/01.HP.0000281180.96259.a8.


Medical health physicists working in a clinical setting will have a number of key roles in the event of a nuclear or radiological emergency, such as a terrorist attack involving a radiological dispersal device or an improvised nuclear device. Their first responsibility, of course, is to assist hospital administrators and facility managers in developing radiological emergency response plans for their facilities and train staff prior to an emergency. During a hospital's response to a nuclear or radiological emergency, medical health physicists may be asked to (1) evaluate the level of radiological contamination in or on incoming victims; (2) help the medical staff evaluate and understand the significance to patient and staff of the levels of radioactivity with which they are dealing; (3) orient responding medical staff with principles of dealing with radioactive contaminants; (4) provide guidance to staff on decontamination of patients, facilities, and the vehicles in which patients were transported; and (5) assist local public health authorities in monitoring people who are not injured but who have been or are concerned that they may have been exposed to radioactive materials or radiation as a result of the incident. Medical health physicists may also be called upon to communicate with staff, patients, and the media on radiological issues related to the event. Materials are available from a number of sources to assist in these efforts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is developing guidance in the areas of radiological population monitoring, handling contaminated fatalities, and using hospital equipment for emergency monitoring. CDC is also developing training and information materials that may be useful to medical health physicists who are called upon to assist in developing facility response plans or respond to a nuclear or radiological incident. Comments on these materials are encouraged.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Disaster Planning / organization & administration*
  • Emergency Medical Services / organization & administration*
  • Health Physics / organization & administration*
  • Professional Role*
  • Radiation Protection / methods*
  • Radioactive Hazard Release / prevention & control*
  • United States