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Improving Radiation Protection Education and Training of Health Professionals


Clinical professionals attend the Joint ICTP–IAEA Workshop on Establishment and Utilization of Diagnostic Reference Levels (DRLs) in Medical Imaging, November 2019, Trieste, Italy (Photo: J. Vassileva/IAEA)

Radiation protection education and training are key to keep medical practitioners up to speed with the safe uses of the latest technologies, and this was a driver of a recent IAEA meeting. To identify the requirements and methods to improve the qualification and competencies of health professionals working with radiation, the IAEA virtually hosted the Technical Meeting on Developing Effective Methods for Radiation Protection Education and Training of Health Professionals.

“The meeting was designed as a platform for sharing successful educational approaches, identifying strengths, weaknesses and opportunities in current education and training systems that target the needs of specific groups of health professionals,” said Jenia Vassileva, IAEA Radiation Protection Specialist.

“Medical technologies based on the use of ionizing radiation continue to advance rapidly. Their effective and safe use for diagnosis and therapy requires health professionals to develop their competencies and remain up-to-date in parallel.”

Three groups are responsible for radiation protection in medical uses of ionizing radiation: radiological medical practitioners, who carry out procedures in diagnostic and interventional radiology, nuclear medicine or radiation oncology; medical radiation technologists, also known as radiographers, who perform procedures and act as the interface between patient and technology; and clinically qualified medical physicists, who are responsible for dosimetry, quality assurance and often organize radiation protection training.

“Every specialist needs radiation protection training that is specifically tailored to their role and the associated risks,” Vassileva said.

Over 200 participants — representing clinics, educational institutes, equipment manufacturers and regulatory bodies — from 67 Member States and 24 international organizations, professional bodies and safety campaigns, attended the online meeting, from 8 to 10 March.

The meeting featured seven panel discussions on medical uses of ionizing radiation and addressed weaknesses of radiation protection training and possible solutions in diagnostic radiology, including dental radiology, fluoroscopy guided interventional procedures, nuclear medicine and radiation oncology, and training of referring physicians and dentists.

“Professional medical societies play a leading role in maintaining and upgrading the competence of their members. This, however, relies on a solid base of academic education and clinical training at medical and dental schools,” said Kimberly Applegate, Chair of Committee 3 on Radiation in Medicine of the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP). “Another important challenge is the need to improve behavioural abilities such as teamwork, communication with each other and with patients, and to respect ethical principles and safety culture.”

University of Latvia radiography students receive practical training on how to position a patient for radiation treatment. (Photo: A. Bajinskis/University of Latvia)

Training closer to the point of care

Busy work schedules and heavy clinical workloads place an increasing constraint on training. Flexible training approaches adapted to practical needs that are closer to the point of care has been recognized as an effective strategy for learning development.

“Case-based training, ‘quick view’ pocket guides, videos and virtual simulators are some examples of training approaches for practice-oriented learning to improve knowledge, skills and competences in radiation protection,” said Graciano Paulo, a radiographer and full professor at the Coimbra Health School (IPC-ESTeSC) in Portugal, and a representative of the EuroSafe Imaging initiave and the European Federation of Radiographer Societies.

IAEA learning resources and support

Experts agreed that the IAEA General Safety Requirements No. GSR Part 3, Radiation Protection and Safety of Radiation Sources: International Basic Safety Standards, and the supporting Safety Guide SSG-46, Radiation Protection and Safety in Medical Uses of Ionizing Radiation, provide a foundation for regulatory frameworks for the education and training of health professionals. Implementation is affected, however, by challenges such as different levels of national mandatory education and training requirements, content and delivery.

IAEA online resources are freely available through the Radiation Protection of Patients website. The IAEA also provides professional guidelines, informational and learning resources in all applications of ionizing radiation in human health through the Human Health Campus.

Participants recognized the need for international guidance on how to implement the requirements for education, training, qualification and competence in radiation protection for health professionals.

Read the full report of the Technical Meeting on Developing Effective Methods for Radiation Protection Education and Training of Health Professionals.

Access the free IAEA training resources on radiation protection in medical uses of ionizing radiation.

Learn more about radiation protection for health professionals and radiation protection for patients and the public.


Last update: 27 Apr 2021

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