Thomas Edison made history when he invented the fluoroscope, but soon stopped his research after his assistant died from x-ray overdose. Marie Curie changed the world when she discovered radium, but soon died due to exposure. Modern-day experts have a far better understanding of how radiation works and are much better equipped to protect themselves from radiation poisoning with the help of radiation shielding and radiation protection methods. However, since radiation is odourless and invisible, it is easy to get complacent about its dangers, and that’s where we’re failing as a society. Radiation exposure can lead to all sorts of health issues, and it is essential to understand the importance of radiation safety.
Radiation in Healthcare
Radiation is commonly used in the field of healthcare, as it aids both patients as well as workers in several ways. Its regular need and pressing timelines also mean that it is often one of the most abused practices in the field, with many approaching radiation protection and radiation shielding in a wrong or incomplete manner. The dangers posed by radiation got a lot of attention when the New York Times published a number of expose on radiation overexposure and treatment accidents. This made the FDA and OSHA take a closer look at the issue.
The Issue of Radiation Safety
One of the main caused of overexposure to radiation is that most people who work with radiation protection and radiation shielding in healthcare only receive rudimentary training. While interventional radiologists are fully trained to use radiation safely, vascular surgeons and interventional cardiologists receive basic training and they may be unaware of the best risk reduction and safety procedures. To make matters worse, while radiologists have radiologic technologists as key members of their team, vascular surgeons and interventional cardiologists mostly have nurses for company.
Another issue is that people often use much more radiation than required. Unlike Japan or the EU, the United States places a great amount of stress on high quality images and this means more radiation.
Keeping a Check on Radiation
Radiation protection is the responsibility of the radiation safety officer and technologists who work in the radiation safety department in most hospitals. The safety officer keeps a track of the exposure faced by healthcare workers and all those exposed to radiation must undergo exposure assessment on a monthly basis. The state performs an inspection once or twice a year as well. Another preventive measure is that the Joint Commission requires all hospitals to have written procedures to help people understand the precautions to use before radiation exposure and learn more about how to use radiation shielding materials and radiation protection tools when dealing with hazardous materials such as x-ray equipment and tools that emit radiation.
All said and done, it’s quite easy and normal for workers to get complacent about radiation safety demanding the pressing and stressful nature of their jobs. Hospitals often get very busy and often times clinicians forget to wear the badge.
Improving Radiation Safety Standards
Luckily for those involved, it is very easy to make improvements in radiation safety. The most basic, and probably the first step to radiation protection, is to make those who work with radiation undergo a basic radiation protection course. It is also essential to ensure that technologists and nurses are encouraged to speak up and bring their concerns forward. Proper communication often helps solve most problems before they become serious. Reducing the amount of radiation dose also works wonders as it benefits patients as well as workers who get exposed to the radiation scatter.
Radiation shielding is another important method of protecting against radiation. Radiation shielding materials include personal shields such as lead glasses and aprons, equipment mounted shields such as protective drapes and architectural shielding.
When treated with the respect it deserves, radiation can be an immensely powerful and useful tool for mankind. However, keeping a check on exposure and making sure that radiation safety practices are followed is essential for the betterment of everyone.