Open Access Research article

Evaluating the effectiveness of a radiation safety training intervention for oncology nurses: a pretest – intervention – posttest study

Lawrence T Dauer1*, Joanne F Kelvin2, Christopher L Horan1 and Jean St Germain1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medical Physics, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 1275 York Ave. New York, NY 10021, USA

2 Department of Radiation Oncology, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, 1275 York Ave. New York, NY 10021, USA

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BMC Medical Education 2006, 6:32  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-6-32

Published: 8 June 2006



Radiation, for either diagnosis or treatment, is used extensively in the field of oncology. An understanding of oncology radiation safety principles and how to apply them in practice is critical for nursing practice. Misconceptions about radiation are common, resulting in undue fears and concerns that may negatively impact patient care. Effectively educating nurses to help overcome these misconceptions is a challenge. Historically, radiation safety training programs for oncology nurses have been compliance-based and behavioral in philosophy.


A new radiation safety training initiative was developed for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) adapting elements of current adult education theories to address common misconceptions and to enhance knowledge. A research design for evaluating the revised training program was also developed to assess whether the revised training program resulted in a measurable and/or statistically significant change in the knowledge or attitudes of nurses toward working with radiation. An evaluation research design based on a conceptual framework for measuring knowledge and attitude was developed and implemented using a pretest-intervention-posttest approach for 15% of the study population of 750 inpatient registered oncology nurses.


As a result of the intervention program, there was a significant difference in nurse's cognitive knowledge as measured with the test instrument from pretest (58.9%) to posttest (71.6%). The evaluation also demonstrated that while positive nursing attitudes increased, the increase was significant for only 5 out of 9 of the areas evaluated.


The training intervention was effective for increasing cognitive knowledge, but was less effective at improving overall attitudes. This evaluation provided insights into the effectiveness of training interventions on the radiation safety knowledge and attitude of oncology nurses.