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In today’s lesson, we’re going to look at radiation safety.
Radiation what? Why radiation safety?
No, you’re not going to turn into some superhero, but as nurses, we are often exposed to radiation from machines, and we need to protect ourselves and our patients.
Radiation is a really complicated science. But what we need to know as nurses is what precautions we need to take with our patients so that we limit and reduce our exposure.
The two biggest factors that we have control over are time and distance. When we have a patient who received recent radiation or are in an area that emits radiation, we can keep our distance from them.
Also, you want to minimize the time you’re exposed to radiation. This is where clustering your care can really be to your advantage. Think of ALL of the things you have to do and get them done quickly. By doing this, you’ll reduce the amount of time you’re exposed.
For some patients they need something called a radioactive implant for their treatment for cancer and other diseases. If your patient has a radioactive implant, such as a seed, be sure to not touch them with bare hands. Always glove up so you don’t get exposed. Also know if your facility or unit has personnel trained to deal with these types of implants and let them properly discard them.
If you do have to have contact with your patient who received radiation, just use your PPE to limit your risk of exposure. Be sure to use gloves or double gloving when dealing with body fluids and use boots or shoe covers to keep your feet protected. . If you are at risk of getting splashed (think emptying the foley), then wear goggles.
Respirators aren’t usually necessary, but in certain diagnostic tests, it may be more common to see the use of them. Pay attention to unit and facility policy on what‘s actually required.
Now, when you’re caring for your patient, leave the trash, linens and any leftover food in the right bins in the room. When you take them out, you can expose other people to radiation. There are people designated and trained to deal with irradiated materials, and they’ll take care of them. Immediately discard body fluids in the right areas, like flushing promptly as long as it’s not contraindicated by your facility.
The other thing you’ll want to do in reducing your own exposure is to split the time up with other providers. If there is a task that a UAP could perform (under proper delegation), have them do it so that you don’t spend your entire day being potentially exposed. This uses your time more wisely and reduces your overall exposure to the potential radiation.
Also, depending on your unit, you may be required to wear a radiation badge called a dosimeter. It measures the amount of exposure you receive and is sent off to a laboratory to make sure that you aren’t getting too much exposure and also to make sure that the equipment isn’t radiating improperly. If it is, they can make necessary adjustments to the machines.
Sometimes you’ll have to be around radiation, and that’s ok. Don’t let it scare you. Radiation and radiation exposure can potentially cause fetal growth and development problems.. So, if you’re pregnant or thinking of conceiving, consider talking to your charge nurse about changing assignments to keep you from being exposed.
But if you do have to be around equipment, like in interventional radiology or the cath lab, be sure to wear a lead apron. If you turn your back to the machine, make sure your apron covers your back as well. Only be around radiation when you have to, so if you can step away behind a protected wall, then that’s best.
Today, we focused on our protecting our patients from radiation, so today’s concept is about safety.
Ok, let’s recap.
When dealing with radiation, be sure to reduce your exposure by limiting your time with the patient or the area and keep your distance if possible.
Use whatever PPE your unit calls for, and know which ones apply to your situation.
Don’t haphazardly discard supplies. Put them in the correct areas and let the right people dispose of them.
Be sure to wear your lead apron when you need to.
Also, if your patient has a radioactive device that dislodges, don’t touch it with bare hands and notify the right people.
That’s it for this lesson on radiation safety. Make sure you check out all the resources attached to this lesson. Now, go out and be your best selves today. And, as always, happy nursing!!