Decontamination Exercise Prepares Medical Residents for Radiation Incident

A quiet Friday morning learning about radiology at University Medical Center of El Paso turned into a crash course in decontamination for 22 emergency medicine and radiology residents July 6, 2018. UMC personnel also took part in the practice drill, which included erecting a giant mass-casualty decontamination shower.

Adding realism to the exercise was a group of students from REL Washington Elementary School, who portrayed victims of a fictional explosion and fire at a hazardous waste facility between El Paso and Alamogordo. The “patients” lined up as the residents checked them for radiation contamination with Geiger counters, while also triaging the patients for injuries written on cards around their necks.

Only the instructors knew that four of the patients were “contaminated.” All of the patients, whether they were contaminated or not, were sent through the decontamination tent and showered as a precaution. The Geiger counter was used again to check them for residual radiation.

A quiet Friday morning learning about radiology at University Medical Center of El Paso turned into a crash course in decontamination for 22 emergency medicine and radiology residents July 6, 2018. UMC personnel also took part in the practice drill, which included erecting a giant mass-casualty decontamination shower. On July 6, 2018, emergency medicine and radiology residents, along with University Medical Center of El Paso personnel, participated in a hazardous waste decontamination drill. As part of the exercise, residents tested their "patients" for radiation levels using a Geiger counter.

On July 6, 2018, TTUHSC El Paso emergency medicine and radiology residents, along with University Medical Center of El Paso personnel, participated in a hazardous waste decontamination drill. As part of the exercise, residents tested their “patients” for radiation exposure using a Geiger counter.

Michael Tate said he was happy to have his three children participate in the exercise because of the role Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso students and residents have played in his life.

“I used to be here (at UMC) a lot when I was sick with lupus,” Tate said. “I just like how the students actually talk to you as a person. Another reason we brought them was so they can see what the doctors do, and maybe they’ll want to be a doctor when they’re older.”

For Emily Wagner, M.D., first-year resident, the hands-on experience dealing with a radiation incident was a first.

“The simulation was great,” Dr. Wagner said. “This isn’t something that happens frequently, but we have to know how to do this. I’ve never seen anything like this set-up. I’ve never assessed somebody for radiation or anything like that. So being able to run through it now so that when I have real patients who are sick and need my help, that’s awesome.”

Dr. Wagner also was glad for the opportunity to have more practice doing triage during the exercise.

“There’s a lot I’ve taken away from (the exercise), especially as somebody new coming into medicine,” she said.

Photos by Tommie Morelos, Office of Institutional Advancement.