Radiological preparedness-awareness and attitudes: a cross-sectional survey of emergency medicine residents and physicians at three academic institutions in the United States

Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2012 Jan;50(1):34-8. doi: 10.3109/15563650.2011.637047. Epub 2011 Dec 19.


Context: Emergency preparedness has been increasingly recognized as important. Research shows many medical personnel feel unprepared to respond to radiation incidents. Knowledge and attitudes of emergency medicine residents and faculty are largely unstudied, regarding their abilities to provide care for radiation disaster victims. It is unknown whether receiving training in radiological emergency preparedness improves knowledge and attitudes.

Objectives: (1) Assess the attitudes of emergency medicine residents and faculty toward a radiological disaster; (2) Assess knowledge gaps of emergency medicine residents and faculty regarding radiological emergency preparedness; (3) Assess the attitudes of emergency medicine residents and faculty toward different educational strategies.

Methods: An electronic survey was sent to 309 emergency medicine residents and faculty at three U.S. academic institutions. Analyses were performed using SAS 9.0 software.

Results: The survey response rate was 36.6%. Only 37% and 28% of respondents had attended radiological preparedness training in the preceding 5 years or any training in radiation detection, respectively. Higher proportions of trained physicians were: (1) more familiar with DTPA and Prussian blue; (2) more comfortable assessing, decontaminating, and managing victims of radiation incidents; and (3) more comfortable using radiation detectors than their untrained counterparts. Many respondents were unable to differentiate between contamination with and exposure to radiological material. Classroom teaching at the workplace and prepackaged educational materials were most frequently rated as the preferred educational method for radiation preparedness training.

Discussion and conclusion: Our results suggest a need for additional radiological-nuclear preparedness training for emergency medicine residents and faculty. Training should include radiation detection, decontamination, explaining differences between radiation exposure and contamination, and teaching patient management, including DTPA and Prussian blue.

MeSH terms

  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disaster Planning* / organization & administration
  • Emergency Medicine* / statistics & numerical data
  • Faculty, Medical* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency* / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Radioactive Hazard Release*
  • Schools, Medical
  • United States