Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness

Research Article

Factors Affecting Hospital-based Nurses' Willingness to Respond to a Radiation Emergency

Tener Goodwin Veenema c1, Bonnie Walden, Nancy Feinstein and Jacqueline P. Williams


Background: Despite increased government and public awareness of the threat of a radiological emergency resulting from a terrorist attack or industrial accident, limited emphasis has been placed on preparing the US health care workforce for such an event. The purpose of this study was to develop and apply a rapid survey to evaluate hospital-based nurses' baseline knowledge, self-assessed clinical competence, perception of personal safety, and willingness to respond in the event of a radiological emergency.

Methods: The study was conducted in 2 phases, the first targeting nursing units likely to respond in the event of a radiological emergency and the second focusing more generally on members of the New York State Emergency Nurses Association currently employed as hospital-based nurses.

Results: Among the 668 nurses surveyed, baseline knowledge was found to be inadequate. Although baseline knowledge, clinical competence, and perception of personal safety were all positively associated with willingness to respond, perception of safety appeared to be the primary determinant. Furthermore, baseline knowledge did not appear to be strongly associated with perception of personal safety.

Conclusions: Based on these results, the investigators recommend further clinical training to enhance preparedness and a more detailed exploration of the determinants of perceived personal safety. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2008;2:224–229)

(Received January 17 2008)

(Accepted August 12 2008)

Key Words

  • nursing;
  • radiation emergency;
  • radiological terrorism;
  • perceived safety;
  • willingness to report


c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr Tener Goodwin Veenema, University of Rochester School of Nursing, 601 Elmwood Ave, Box SON, Rochester, NY 14642(e-mail: Tener_Veenema@urmc.rochester.edu).

At the time of writing, Dr Veenema was program director, Disaster Nursing and Strategic Initiatives, Center for Disaster Medicine and Emergency Preparedness, University of Rochester; Ms Walden is with the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Rochester Medical Center; Dr Feinstein is assistant professor, University of Rochester School of Nursing; Dr Williams is research associate professor, Department of Radiation Biology, University of Rochester Medical Center.