Thirteenth Annual Warren K. Sinclair Keynote Address: Where Are the Radiation Professionals (WARP)?

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Abstract

In July 2013, the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements convened a workshop for representatives from government, professional organizations, academia, and the private sector to discuss a potential shortage of radiation protection professionals in the not-too-distant future. This shortage manifests itself in declining membership of professional societies, decreasing enrollment in university programs in the radiological sciences, and perhaps most importantly, the imminent retirement of the largest birth cohort in American history, the so-called “baby boomer” generation. Consensus emerged that shortages already are, or soon will be, felt in government agencies (including state radiation control programs); membership in professional societies is declining precipitously; and student enrollments and university support for radiological disciplines are decreasing with no reversals expected. The supply of medical physicists appears to be adequate at least in the near term, although a shortage of available slots in accredited clinical training programs looms large. In general, the private sector appears stable, due in part to retirees joining the consultant ranks. However, it is clear that a severe problem exists with the lack of an adequate surge capacity to respond to a large-scale reactor accident or radiological terrorism attack in the United States. The workshop produced a number of recommendations, including increased funding of both fellowships and research in the radiological sciences, as well as creation of internships, practicums, and post-doctoral positions. A federal joint program support office that would more efficiently manage the careers of radiological professionals in the civil service would enhance recruiting and development, and increase the flexibility of the various agencies to manage their staffing needs.

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