Did You Know Pharmacists Can Work at Poison Centers?


When I am not working in the emergency room, I am a specialist in poison information at the Wisconsin Poison Center.

When I am not working in the emergency room, I am a specialist in poison information at the Wisconsin Poison Center.

When I started pharmacy school, did I ever dream that I was going to be working at a poison center? Absolutely not.

I don’t remember poison centers being mentioned as a career option during pharmacy school. I know that some schools work closely with poison centers or have faculty working there, but I personally never thought about toxicology until my toxicology elective.

Now, I can tell you it is a challenging but rewarding profession.

If you’re new to the world of poison control, the job starts as a “specialist in poison information.”

It is fairly daunting as you begin orientation listening to phone calls and studying how to manage pesticide, hydrocarbon, and caustic exposures. As a pharmacist, it is less daunting when it comes to managing beta-blockers, thyroid, and ibuprofen exposures.

After managing 2000 human exposures and working for 2000 hours, you are eligible for examination to become a certified specialist in poison information.

The medication exposures are mostly straightforward. The household, occupational, and environmental exposures are more difficult.

Toss in the fact that your patient is a 14 month old and you’re speaking with a first-time mother who is extremely upset about her child getting into that substance. Plus, you can’t see the patient because you’re performing your job functions over the phone.

A child ingesting a substance is only part of the job. Poison centers also manage calls from emergency medical services, law enforcement, hospitals, physician offices, schools, and medical examiners. Some offer drug information services, as well.

There are currently 55 poison centers in the United States. With postgraduate training becoming more popular in recent years, clinical toxicology fellowships are now available.

Fellowship training programs can be found through the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology, but if you’re interested in further advancement, the American Board of Applied Toxicology certifies non-physician clinical toxicologists.

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