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Nurs Outlook. 2019 Jan - Feb;67(1):54-88. doi: 10.1016/j.outlook.2018.10.005. Epub 2018 Nov 2.

National nurse readiness for radiation emergencies and nuclear events: A systematic review of the literature.

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Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, Center for Humanitarian Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD. Electronic address:
University of Tennessee Knoxville, St. Louis, MO. Electronic address:
College of Nursing, University of Missouri-St. Louis, St. Louis, MO. Electronic address:
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Children's Hospital, Baltimore, MD. Electronic address:
Supporting Professional Advancement in Nursing (SPAN) Program, Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, Baltimore, MD. Electronic address:



Little is known regarding the capacity of U.S. nurses to respond following a large-scale radiation release, despite its relevance to our National Security Strategy.


To conduct a systematic review of the literature to assess nurse readiness for radiation emergencies and nuclear events.


A systematic review of publications identified through a comprehensive search of four relevant databases (Embase, PubMed/Medline, Scopus, and Web of Science) was conducted (n = 62).


Limited evidence exists to support that nurses are prepared or willing to respond to a large-scale emergency resulting from a radiation release or nuclear-level event.


History suggests nurses will be expected to perform triage, minimize radiation exposure, decontaminate, manage trauma, treat burns, and coordinate care for patients. Research is needed to identify the specific roles and responsibilities of nurses in radiation emergencies and nuclear response and to ascertain quantitative measurement of the level of national nurse readiness for these large-scale radiation emergency and nuclear events.


Emergency preparedness; Nuclear accidents; Nuclear war; Nursing; Radiation; Workforce

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