Background: A new initiative was introduced in Ireland following legislative changes that allowed nurses with special training to prescribe ionising radiation (X-ray) for the first time. A small number of studies on nurse prescribing of ionising radiation in other contexts have found it to be broadly as safe as ionising radiation prescribing by physicians. Sociological literature on perceptions of safety indicates that these tend to be shaped by the
ideological position of the professional rather than based on objective evidence.
Objectives: To describe, compare and analyse perceptions of the safety of a nurse
prescribing of ionising radiation initiative across three occupational groups: nursing,
radiography and medicine.
Design: A cross-sectional survey design.
Settings: Participants were drawn from a range of clinical settings in Ireland.
Participants: Respondents were 167 health professionals comprised of 49 nurses, 91 radio-graphers, and 27 physicians out of a total of 300 who were invited to participate.
Non-probability sampling was employed and the survey was targeted specifically at health professionals with a specific interest in, or involvement with, the development of the nurse prescribing of ionising radiation initiative in Ireland.
Methods: Comparisons of perspectives on the safety of nurse prescribing of ionising
radiation across the three occupational groups captured by questionnaire were analysed using the Kruskal–Wallis H test. Pairwise post hoc tests were conducted using the Mann–Whitney U test.
Results: While the majority of respondents from all three groups perceived nurse
prescribing of ionising radiation to be safe, the extent to which this view was held varied. A higher proportion of nurses was found to display confidence in the safety of nurse prescribing of ionising radiation compared to physicians and radiographers with differences between nurses’ perceptions and those of the other two groups being statistically significant.
Conclusion: That an occupational patterning emerged suggests that perceptions about safety and risk of nurse prescribing of ionising radiation are socially constructed according to the vantage point of the professional and may not reflect objective measures of safety.
These findings need to be considered more broadly in the context of ideological barriers to expanding the role of nurses.