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Taking Responsibility for Safety


G Sherouse


G Sherouse1*, (1) Landauer Medical Physics, Charlotte, NC

SU-C-Salon AB-1 Sunday 1:30:00 PM - 3:30:00 PM Room: Salon AB

Much has been made of the need for robust clinical processes in support of safety and quality management, and that is indeed a crucial element of practice in which the medical physicist typically plays a key role as the only expert in the organization with any formal engineering training.

Equally critical is attention to safety in the design of medical devices and in the superdevices created when they are interconnected and interact. The role of the clinical medical physicist in promoting safety of device design is indirect, but the local implementation of any new or re-purposed technology should always include a careful analysis of hazards that device design might present in a given milieu, and again it is the clinical medical physicist who plays a leadership role in performing the hazard analysis and mitigation.

This presentation will focus on neither of those essential roles of the medical physicist, which get good attention elsewhere, but rather goes further into the uncomfortable territory of professional responsibility. The very heterogeneity of backgrounds and training that many tout as the longstanding strength of legacy pathways into medical physics have also tended to foster a wide diversity in the ways that both medical physicists and others view the standing, role and responsibilities of the clinical medical physicist. The technology for which we take responsibility is complex and inherently life-threatening. It is incumbent on medical physicists to establish themselves locally as the professionals who manage reliability, to take that responsibility seriously in our training and our practice, and to always be prepared to do what must be done to protect our patients from harm.

We will survey some case studies of medical radiation accidents in which patients have been harmed or killed, here with a particular emphasis on the ways in which clinical medical physicists have performed exceptionally (on either side of the bell curve). Some discussion will be offered as to the specific ways in which medical physicists should think about their role and responsibilities in the provision of highly reliable care.

Learning objectives:
1. To better understand that the medical use of radiation is inherently dangerous.
2. To understand the role medical physicists have played in some high-profile radiation accidents.
3. To review the professional role and responsibilities of the clinical medical physicist in the safety of clinical practice.


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