NRC Continues to Be A Top Performer in the Annual Employee Work Survey

Mark A. Satorius
Executive Director for Operations

Every year, the Office of Personnel Management surveys federal workers for their level of satisfaction with their jobs, and their take on their agency’s leadership and organizational culture,

The NRC has traditionally scored well – often significantly higher than most other government agencies. And the NRC – even when faced with government-wide issues associated with pay and budgets – continues to rank checklistin the top performing agencies for 2013. We remain first in “Leadership and Knowledge Management,” second in “Job Satisfaction” and third in “Results-Oriented Performance Culture” categories.

While the NRC remains above government-wide averages in most categories, we’re particularly happy to report our results are:

• higher than the government average in employees rating the quality of their work;

• higher than the government average in employees knowing how their work relates to the agency mission; and

• higher than the government average in employees believing the agency is accomplishing its mission.

Also, eight in ten NRC employees recommend their organization as a good place to work – as compared to six in 10 employees government wide. And the NRC scored high on work/life questions that reflects how hard we work to attract and keep high-performing employees through such things as telework opportunities and alternative work schedules.

But we also saw some indications of dissatisfaction among employees primarily related to pay, promotions, resources and training opportunities. These are issues across the federal government, as the NRC and other agencies confront the dual challenge of sequestration’s impacts and pay freezes several years running. The NRC, for example, cut its external training budget in half – a decision that helped save the agency from having to resort to furloughs as an option for reducing the impact of sequestration.

It’s important to note that the FEVS survey is one tool the NRC uses to assess employee opinions and make key course corrections when necessary. The NRC’s Office of the Inspector General also does a “safety culture” survey every few years, which we study closely and use as the impetus for needed operational and/or organizational changes.

As we have in the past, we’ll use the information in both the FEVS survey and the recent OIG survey to guide changes we feel we need to make to keep this organization meeting its important safety and security mission – and assuring the NRC continues to be an attractive employer for talented and dedicated professionals.

Using Radioactive Materials to Help Fido and Fluffy

Betsy Ullrich
Sr. Health Physicist
Region I

Radiation and radioactive materials aren’t just used for human medical purposes. Animals that are sick or hurt benefit as well, in methods similar to those used by medical doctors.

vetBy far, the most common use of radiation in a veterinary practice is from x-ray machines. An x-ray machine uses electricity to produce low-energy radiation that passes through soft substances such as skin and muscle, but not through hard substances like bone or metal. So when a veterinarian suspects your dog has a broken leg, he uses an x-ray machine to obtain a picture, called a radiograph.

Radiographs can also spot objects that animals have swallowed by mistake, such as lead sinkers lost in a pond or stream by a fisherman.

While x-ray machines are regulated by state agencies, not the NRC, other activities performed by veterinarians do require an NRC license. One common radioactive material, technetium-99m or tech-99m as it’s often called, is used to diagnose bone damage too small to be seen by x-rays. This type of diagnosis, called a “bone scan,” is performed often in horses used for racing or jumping.

The horse is injected with a tech-99m-labelled compound that acts like calcium and concentrates in the bones. The compound emits low-energy gamma rays that can be detected by a “gamma camera.” Because most of the gamma radiation will come from the bony areas of the horse, a picture of the bone can be seen. Damaged areas will have high concentrations of the tech-99m, allowing the veterinarian to see what areas are causing pain. The radioactive material decays away in a few days. The horse can then go home and be treated for the problems identified in the bone scan.

Vets commonly use another isotope, iodine-131, to treat feline hyperthyroidism. This disease is caused by an overactive thyroid, catvetand cats with this disease become very thin and sick. One possible treatment involves surgery to remove part of the thyroid, so that the cat’s thyroid activities are reduced to normal levels.

Or a veterinarian can use radioactive iodine-131, known as I-131, to reduce thyroid activity. In this type of treatment, a cat is injected with I-131, which will concentrate in the cat’s thyroid and emit gamma radiation that will damage some of the thyroid tissue and reduce thyroid activities to a more normal level. I-131 has an eight-day half-life, so cats treated with it must remain at the vet hospital for several days. Then owners must follow special handling precautions when they return home.

While technetium-99m and iodine-131 are the most commonly used radioisotopes for treating animals, some large veterinary hospitals may also use lasers, computed tomography scans, positron-emission tomography scans, and magnetic resonance imaging. And animals of all sizes, from hamsters to horses, from owls to elephants, may need x-rays – thus benefitting from the careful medical use of radiation.

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