Radiation therapy is a common option for a variety of cancers, and it is important for all healthcare providers involved in a patient’s care to understand radiation safety principles and how to apply them in practice.

A 25-bed inpatient oncology unit designed a radiation safety and educational training session for its multidisciplinary team to identify educational needs, safety intelligence reports, and lack of standardized process for onboarding new employees.

Tara Tatum, MBA, RN, and Stella Dike, MSN, RN, OCN®, both from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, presented the findings during a poster session at the ONS 42nd Annual Congress in Denver, CO. The poster was titled “Radiation Safety Education: An Innovative, Multidisciplinary Approach to Enhancing the Knowledge and Skills of Oncology Nurses in an Inpatient Radiation Setting.”

A preintervention survey reported a radiation safety knowledge deficit, and preintervention safety events (from 2015–2016) indicated a similar knowledge deficit among the unit staff.

The researchers put together a two-day, four-hour multidisciplinary mandatory educational event, which was presented by the unit educator, physicians, radiation safety specialist, and field engineers.

  • Didactic presentations with an active classroom response system that covered:
    • Overview of gynecological cancer
    • Cervical cancer and HPV
    • Radium implant for brachytherapy
    • Eye plaque for melanoma
    • Iodine-131 therapy for thyroid cancer
    • Radiation safety precautions
  • Competency/skills validation with case scenarios that covered:
    • Radiation treatment skills validation for clinical nurses
    • Skills validation for emergency radiation source retraction

At three and six months post-training, the researchers reported a positive impact on clinical practice. An eight-month post-survey also revealed a significant increase in knowledge and skills of radiation safety and patient care.

“It is critical in oncology radiation settings that leaders promote efforts to ensure the development of a radiation safety training program,” the authors concluded, recommending quarterly radiation training programs to target new employees, as well as an annual course for all employees.