Nuclear terror: Tips for training hospital staff

To prepare for the possibility of nuclear terrorism, every hospital employee should receive training, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).1 That said, ensure that hospital staff who most likely will respond to a radiological incident or those at highest risk for radiation exposure receive the most training.

Since the hospital will not be able to train the entire staff in all scenarios, it should create easy access to radiological experts, beginning with the hospital radiation safety officer, but including medical physicists, health physicists, and radiation protection technologists. According to the CDC, the following components should be included in training programs:

  • The basic principles of radiation protection and the realities of treating contaminated patients.
  • A clear definition of the roles and responsibilities of all staff members involved in a response to a mass-casualty incident.
  • Radiation survey meter use and interpretation for those who will test individuals for contamination.
  • Decontamination training for those who will most likely decontaminate patients.
  • Setting up control zones and a global perspective for head nurses in the emergency department.
  • Equipment decontamination for maintenance and cleaning staff.


1. Smith JM, Spano MA. Interim Guidelines for Hospital Response to Mass Casualties from a Radiological Incident. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; 2003. Web site: