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A Recognized Hospital Radiation Safety Officer

Introduction

Radiation protection is a science and an art, the goal of which is to protect the environment and people from ionization by radiation. A Radiation Safety Officer (RSO) in a hospital is a person in charge of the execution of a radiation safety program in a health care institution. They ensure that all activities revolving around radioactive materials, X-ray machines, and materials that emit ionizing and non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation are conducted according to the policies that are approved by regulatory bodies. Their task is to ensure that both staff and patients are protected from radiation.

The purpose of the study is to determine what is required to be recognized as a radiation officer in a hospital.

Background

To achieve an environment that is safe and healthy in radiation departments, an RSO has to ensure there is less risk of exposure to radiation. If an RSO fails to provide adequate protection, exposure to it may lead to genetic and somatic damages (Davies, Granger, & Trevor, 2005). Therefore, it is important to comply with the practices that reduce radiation in order to mitigate these risks. As an officer in charge, one has to ensure there are beam-restricting devices that control X-ray fields in a hospital, as well as immobilizing pads and X-ray machines that are functional and are in a good state.

According to Kroger (2015), RSO’s duties include the monitoring of every activity involved in the handling of radioactive materials, inducing regular surveys, and monitoring of areas where such materials are being used.  In addition, RSOs must make sure there is compliance with the regulatory authority and that the hospital has all the necessary licenses required by the Radiation Safety Committee (Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, 2008).  Further, an RSO must be able to conduct a routine maintenance and monitoring of storage, usage, and disposal of radioactive materials, offer consultancy services to other medical personnel on protection, offer training programs, and give instructions to personnel on the procedures of handling and usage of radioactive materials. An RSO should be able to terminate any project that poses health hazards immediately, supervise waste disposal, coordinate the documentation of storage and disposal records, and perform tests on potential leaks and document them  (Environmental Health and Radiation Safety, n.d.).

Therefore, for one to be recognized as a radiation officer in a hospital, one has to be able to follow all these safety procedures. It does not matter how much qualified one is in terms of education; what matters is following the above procedures and fulfilling those duties to the letter. This research chose one hospital to find out if they have qualified RSOs who are able to fulfil all their responsibilities without any mistakes or failing in any of the required task.

Methods

Evaluation was done through a cross sectional study that was carried out on 1st-10th November in Doctors Hospital, Texas. The study observed and interviewed RSOs in the chosen hospital. Radiographers were also questioned to obtain more details about their seniors. The number of interviewees who agreed to be included in the study was a sample of 5 RSOs (n=5) and 29 radiographers (n=29).

The duty of an RSO in the selected hospital is to make sure that radiation protection is effective and machines and instruments have been installed and are working properly. In the course of the research, the use of lead rubber shields, personal dosimeters, and survey meters has been observed as well. Further, a regular quality assurance monitoring of X-ray procedures has been conducted.

All the radiographers who were involved in the study were certified by the radiographer’s registration board and are allowed to work in any public and private hospital. Senior RSOs who were not included in the study were engaged in other duties. Students on attachment were not involved because their experience was insufficient and they spent too little time in the department. In addition, Ultrasonology and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) specialists were excluded from the study because they were few in the hospital and they were engaged with patients.

The methods of data collection used were questionnaires and observation. The questionnaires were semi-structured and self-administered. In the course of the research, an inventory checking of radiation protection kits took place before data collection. X-ray equipment was inspected by checking the year of manufacture, and test exposure experiments have been performed. The status of beam light diagrams was determined by inspecting the kV and mA selectors. Quality assurance tests records were checked and recorded.

To obtain more certain results, some of the interviewers applied as interns on attachment. During the conduction of the study, they helped to observe employees and to collect additional data. They were to obtain the most accurate information because in the past, there was an issue of inaccurate figures provided by the staff. Hospital personnel are known to follow all the requirements properly when they know they are being observed.

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Results

Three out of the five RSOs interviewed returned the questionnaires in time. Out of the five questioned RSOs, there were three males and two females. Among those three who returned the questionnaires in time, two were women and one was a man. The working experience of the respondents ranged from 5 to 15 years among the RSOs and from 1 to 12 years among radiographers.

Radioactive materials handling was performed by the authorized officers who were conducting regular surveys in the areas where radioactive materials were being used. According to the study of the records, there was consistency in the following of and compliance with the regulatory rules set by the Radiation Safety Committee. Both the hospital and the members of the staff had all the required licenses. The staff members who did not have licenses were students on attachment, but they were practicing under the supervision of the licensed personnel.

The study determined that the storage rooms were radiation-proof and the disposal of emission materials was done in a proper manner. In addition, the research determined that there was effective collaboration between RSOs and radiographers. However, there were days when RSOs were absent. Students on attachment reported that they were given proper instructions by their superiors on how to handle machines and tend to patients. They also stated that they were not allowed to handle radioactive materials without the supervision of the licensed personnel.

The research recorded one incident of radiation hazard, which emerged due to a reckless disposal of radioactive materials. The accident was reported to the nearest RSO, who took precaution measures instantly. The RSO authorized an immediate lockdown in order to contain radiation. When the machines were inspected, the RSO determined that they were radiation-proof and posed no threat to the patients and the staff.

RSOs and radiographers in the hospital demonstrated proper knowledge, skills, and abilities. The study determined that RSOs worked more effectively together with radiographers, hence boosting the performance of both. The cooperation between radiographers and RSOs yields positive results and allows to tackle various issues related to radiation protection effectively.

Conclusion

In order to be recognized as a radiation officer in a hospital, an RSO must be well-versed in the field of radiation protection. He or she must adhere to all the rules and regulation set by the Radiation Safety Committee. Further, for one to be recognized as a radiation officer in a health care institution, one has to properly handle radioactive materials and monitor the areas where such materials are being used. One has to ensure there is compliance with all the laws provided by radiation regulatory bodies. An RSO must regularly conduct routine maintenance and inspection to identify any deviations and take precautions. Moreover, a qualified RSO should inspect the disposal of radioactive materials. In addition, they must keep records of the storage and usage of radioactive materials to make sure that no such materials are missing.

An RSO must be present each operational day. Radiographers must not be left alone: there always has to be someone to supervise them, so that in case of any danger, they can terminate any operation and prevent accidents. Quality assurance measures should be put in place to make sure there are no instances of leakages. In addition, RSOs should make sure machines are always in a good state. If machines are damaged, outdated, or do not fulfil their functions, equipment has to be replaced.

The state of Texas has to enforce stricter laws related to radiation protection. When a radiation exposure occurs when an RSO is on duty, he/she should be held responsible for such occasions. This will increase accountability of such officers as they will monitor all the processes more diligently.

Students on attachment should not handle radioactive materials even if they are under supervision. They are only supposed to observe how other professionals work.

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