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The Radiation Injury Treatment Network (RITN) is prepared to respond to a national disaster resulting in mass casualties with marrow toxic injuries. How effective existing RITN workforce education and training is, or whether health-care providers (HCPs) at these centers possess the knowledge and skills to care for patients following a radiation emergency is unclear. HCP knowledge regarding the medical effects and medical management of radiation-exposed patients, along with clinical competence and willingness to care for patients following a radiation emergency was assessed.
An online survey was conducted to assess level of knowledge regarding the medical effects of radiation, medical/nursing management of patients, self-perception of clinical competence, and willingness to respond to radiation emergencies and nuclear events.
Attendance at previous radiation emergency management courses and overall knowledge scores were low for all respondents. The majority indicated they were willing to respond to a radiation event, but few believed they were clinically competent to do so.
Despite willingness to respond, HCPs at RITN centers may not possess adequate knowledge of medical management of radiation patients, and appropriate response actions during a radiation emergency. RITN should increase the awareness of the importance of radiation education and training.
Large scale radiologic and nuclear disasters are rare; however, recent events such as the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor emergency in Japan and current global political tensions have highlighted the need for health-care providers with expertise in managing radiation injuries. Medical Toxicologists have the ability to collaborate with other specialists in filling this critical role.
We conducted a cross-sectional survey to assess the attitudes, experiences, and knowledge of medical toxicologists through the assistance of the American College of Medical Toxicology.
The survey was completed by 114 medical toxicologists during the enrollment period. Medical toxicologists who had a willingness to participate in radiologic or nuclear emergencies or who had taken care of patients contaminated with radioactive material were more likely to perform well on the knowledge assessment.
We identified that there is a group of medical toxicologists who have the willingness, experience, and knowledge to help manage patients in the event of a radiologic or nuclear emergency.
Public health (PH) and nursing students are an underutilized demographic in disaster response. Knowledge of the disaster response phase may enhance student understanding of preparedness, and provide response capabilities.
A single four-hour simulation-based training session, with toxicologists as instructors, can effectively improve PH and nursing student knowledge and skills in chemical and radiation response, despite minimal prior experience.
A convenience sample was used to test PH and nursing students in a response training program. An introductory lecture and simulation training reviewed: mass casualty care, triage, personal protective equipment, decontamination, and chemical and radiation exposure toxidromes. An examination was administered pre-training, and then post-training, to evaluate relevant training, knowledge, risk perception, and comfort in response capabilities to chemical and radiation incidents.
Forty-two students attended the course; 39 were included in the study. Seventy-two percent (n=28) of participants had no prior disaster training. Overall, there were significant differences between the pre-test and post-test scores for all students [95% CI: 5.4 (4.7-6.1); p<0.0001, paired t-test]; maximum score 15/15. Comparing scores of nursing and PH students, despite statistical difference in pre-test scores (median, IQR: 9.0 (7.5-10±2.0); 7.0 (5.7-9.0) respectively; p=0.048, Mann Whitney U-test), there were no statistical differences in post-test scores (median, IQR: 14.0 (13.0-14.0); 13.0 (12.0-14.0), respectively, Mann Whitney U-test). All students recognized nerve agent toxidrome and performed SALT triage after the training (p <0.0001, McNemar test). Subjectively, participant comfort level in responding to a chemical or radiological incident improved (p <0.0001, McNemar test). Individual risk perception for chemical or radiological disasters did not improve after training.
Improvement of knowledge and comfort was demonstrated, irrespective of previous experience. Simulation-based training of chemical and radiation disaster preparedness, led by medical toxicologists, is an effective means of educating PH and nursing students, with minimal prior fluency.
Despite children’s unique vulnerability, clinical guidance and resources are lacking around the use of radiation medical countermeasures (MCMs) available commercially and in the Strategic National Stockpile to support immediate dispensing to pediatric populations. To better understand the current capabilities and shortfalls, a literature review and gap analysis were performed.
A comprehensive review of the medical literature, Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved labeling, FDA summary reviews, medical references, and educational resources related to pediatric radiation MCMs was performed from May 2016 to February 2017.
Fifteen gaps related to the use of radiation MCMs in children were identified. The need to address these gaps was prioritized based upon the potential to decrease morbidity and mortality, improve clinical management, strengthen caregiver education, and increase the relevant evidence base.
Key gaps exist in information to support the safe and successful use of MCMs in children during radiation emergencies; failure to address these gaps could have negative consequences for families and communities. There is a clear need for pediatric-specific guidance to ensure clinicians can appropriately identify, triage, and treat children who have been exposed to radiation, and for resources to ensure accurate communication about the safety and utility of radiation MCMs for children. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2019;13:639-646)
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