A toxicology nurse treats people who have either ingested a poison or have come in contact with a poisonous substance. Rigorous and specialized education is necessary for success in this position, but salary levels are consistently above average. A significant part of a toxicology nurse’s duties include educating the public, especially school children, about the inherent dangers of snakes, poisons, and various toxic substances with which they might come into contact.
In order to succeed as a toxicology nurse, one must be at ease around children and be a capable public speaker. The job entails frequent public presentations as well as patient treatment, so a solid grasp of time-management skills is essential for success in the field. Sometimes known as Poison Information Specialists or Certified Specialists in Poison Information, toxicology nurses inhabit a fast-paced segment of the medical sector.
Work Environment and Job Duties
The typical toxicology nurse faces a complex daily work environment, which could include the creation of treatment plans, public presentations about how to avoid poisons, management of other personnel, treatment of bug or animal bites, and emergency care for victims of poisoning. The job is primarily in clinic or hospital settings, often near or in emergency facilities. Poison control centers are another place where toxicology nurses are in demand. When not working with patients, the toxicology nurse can be found in local schools, delivering presentations about poisons, snake bites, and bee stings.
Requirements and Education
A nurse who wants to become a Certified Specialist in Poison Information needs to pass a rigorous test, known as the Poison Information Specialist certification exam. Many toxicology nurses begin as staff members of intensive care or critical care units. Of course, the first step is to complete a two-year or four-year nursing program from an accredited institution. Many who have found success in the field first earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or a Master’s Degree in Nursing (MSN), and proceeded to gain practical experience before taking the specialist exam.
Salary and Career Outlook
Keeping in mind that salary data changes frequently, and varies by geographic location, the majority of toxicology nurses earn between $45,000 and $60,000 per year. Education, experience, and facility type will impact the starting salary for toxicology nursing positions. The employment environment for the specialty is bright, with strong growth expected for the next several years. Besides experience in poison control units or emergency settings, a background in public speaking is a plus for nurses who want to enter the toxicology field. As is the case for many other niche disciplines, medical institutions typically have just one or two toxicology nurses on staff, so one must be prepared for an extensive job search.
Likewise, large metropolitan areas are the most promising venues for those who wish to enter the rewarding, demanding career of toxicology nursing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the growth rate for the nursing profession to be 22 percent during the ten-year period ending in 2018, while the current annual salary for a toxicology nurse stands at $47,000.