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Keywords:

  • diagnostic imaging;
  • ionising radiation;
  • medical education

Summary

This study aims to evaluate medical student and intern awareness of ionising radiation exposure from common diagnostic imaging procedures and to suggest how education could be improved. Fourth to sixth year medical students enrolled at a Western Australian university and interns from three teaching hospitals in Perth were recruited. Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire consisting of 26 questions on their background, knowledge of ionising radiation doses and learning preferences for future teaching on this subject. A total of 331 completed questionnaires were received (95.9%). Of the 17 questions assessing knowledge of ionising radiation, a mean score of 6.0 was obtained by respondents (95% CI 5.8–6.2). Up to 54.8% of respondents underestimated the radiation dose from commonly requested radiological procedures. Respondents (11.3 and 25.5%) incorrectly believed that ultrasound and MRI emit ionising radiation, respectively. Of the four subgroups of respondents, the intern doctor subgroup performed significantly better (mean score 6.9, P < 0.0001, 95% CI 6.5–7.3) than each of the three medical student subgroups. When asked for the preferred method of teaching for future radiation awareness, a combination of lectures, tutorials and workshops was preferred. This study has clearly shown that awareness of ionising radiation from diagnostic imaging is lacking among senior medical students and interns. The results highlight the need for improved education to minimise unnecessary exposure of patients and the community to radiation. Further studies are required to determine the most effective form of education.