The Future of Radiological Protection


ICRP Recommendations May Be Fit-For-Purpose, But Without Adequate Human Resources, We Just Wont Get There

Author(s): Carmel J. Caruana, Eric Pace
(Medical Physics, University of Malta)



In many countries in the world radiation protection faces an acute shortage of human resources. In particular, the medical-physics and radiation-protection professions face an acute shortage of entrants owing to the irregular number of physics/engineering graduates and low popularity of two year masters programmes. Under such conditions ICRP recommendations may of themselves be very much fit-for-purpose, however their implementation in practice is fraught with difficulties and sometimes of a dubious level. A formula needs to be found to: (a) ensure that the potential stock of entrants to the professions would be independent of erratic student numbers in physics/engineering (b) address the paradox of having to reduce the masters programme to one year at a time when the knowledge-skills-competences required for modern medical-physics / radiation-protection practice are expanding rapidly owing to the increasing complexity of medical device technology and clinical protocols. It was considered that the best way forward would be to opt for an undergraduate inter-faculty programme that combined physics and medical physics/radiation protection. The resulting four year programme consists of 5 parallel strands namely physics/mathematics/statistics, medical-physics/radiation-protection, basic-medical-sciences, research and hospital placements. The physics/mathematics/statistics component is sufficiently strong to ensure a strong scientific foundation whilst the medical-physics/radiation-protection component is sufficiently comprehensive to permit the reduction of the Masters in Medical Physics from two years to one. We are pleased to report that the innovative curricular experiment has been a great success. The combination of pure and applied physics, the inter-faculty nature of the programme (where students share lectures with both physics and healthcare professions students) together with the element of clinical practice have been found to be the most attractive features of the programme. The programme has provided a welcome boost for both the medical-physics/radiation-protection professions and indeed even physics itself.

Keywords: education; human resources; radiation protection; medical physics; undergraduate degree



Hugh Wilkins

Very interesting initiative, congratulations. When did the  BSc start? How many students have enrolled?

Carmel J. Caruana

Hello Hugh, we have had a super success. It started 3 years ago. Number of applicants: first cohort 15, second cohort 23, third cohort 11. Keeping in mind that this is a country of only  400, 00 people  it's super..

Hugh Wilkins

Thanks Carmel for answering my questions. I think you're fully entitled to describe this as 'super'.  You have addressed a serious problem and devised an excellent model.  Congratulations!

Christopher Clement

Thanks for sharing this success in developing a B.Sc. and masters for educating medical physicists. I hope many others facing similar challenges can benefit from your example.

Carmel J. Caruana

Dear Christopher,  thank you for the nice message. If anybody needs advice on starting a similar programme please feel free to write.