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Become a Poison Information Specialist with these Required Skills

Higher Education Articles August 5, 2013

People experience emergencies every day. One such emergency involves the accidental consumption of liquids, chemicals, plants and foreign objects considered poisonous to the body. The person, or loved one, may call a poison control center or go to the poison emergency room to receive immediate information and treatment.

Poison information specialists strive to help people before they end up in the poison emergency room. These nursing professionals specialize in poison information provide timely advice on prevention and treatment concerning poisons to patients, medical professionals and the general public. Most poison information specialists work in a poison control center, answering calls from individuals who believe that they have been poisoned. The specialists will also go to schools and businesses to talk about the importance of poison prevention, according to Johnston & Johnston Services.

Poison Information Specialist Skills

Special skills are needed to become a poison information specialist besides the required education in nursing, pharmacology or toxicology. Individuals eager to seek nursing as a profession and specialize in poison information should possess the following skills.


Having effective oral communication is the most important skill required of a poison information specialist. They must answer questions and speak effectively to people over the phone concerning the possibility of a poisoning. The poison information specialist has to relay medical advice for accidental poisonings in the best manner, so the caller can take the correct steps in obtaining medical treatment. In addition, having communication and speaking skills is essential when teaching about poison prevention to school students and business employees.

Critical Thinking

Assessing the caller’s needs through critical thinking skills allows the poison information specialist to understand the nature of the person’s medical situation over the phone. With exceptional critical thinking skills, the poison information specialist can determine the extent of the poisoning, what type of poisons may have been ingested, what type of symptoms the person may experience, and what immediate medical treatment the person needs.

Patience and Compassion

People who call the poison control center will be under a lot of stress and worry over the situation they or a loved one is in. Showing patience and compassion to calm the caller down and gain information about what they might have ingested are necessary skills for the poison information specialist. The poison information specialist will patiently wade through the patient’s details of the situation and gather the most important facts. Then, showing compassion, the poison information specialist will calmly explain what the caller needs to do for their particular situation.

Detail Oriented

For callers to receive the correct medical advice, the poison information specialist must be detail oriented to identify the medical situation and suggest the appropriate treatment. This skill is required to give the advice quickly and thoroughly, so the caller understands the nature of the poisoning and the seriousness of the situation.

How to Become a Poison Information Specialist

Seek nursing as a profession to become an expert poison information specialist. Nursing students will need to obtain all education requirements through a four-year, state-approved nursing program as they take classes for their Associate of Science in Nursing degree (ASN) or their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree (BSN). While studying for these degree programs, it is ideal that the nursing student take a few elective courses in poison control or pharmacology.

After completion of the nursing degree program, the student will have to pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become a registered nurse. The next step is to gain the required experience. Most nurse professionals will seek work in an emergency room, intensive care unit, or poison emergency room to gain the clinical knowledge and hands-on training. Getting toxicology experience is also essential for this career. Nurse professionals can also become pharmacists and work within a pharmaceutical environment as they gain the experience to seek a specialization in poison control and information.

A nurse or pharmacist who has worked a number of years in the medical or health facility can take the Certification for Specialists in Poison Information (CSPI) exam sponsored by the American Association of Poison Control Centers, according to Pearson Vue. By passing the exam, the nurse will obtain their certification as a professional poison information specialist.

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