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Working at the Iowa Poison Control Center
What is a SPI? A Specialist in Poison Information or SPI is a nurse or pharmacist who has specialized training in toxicology. A CSPI is a Certified Specialist in Poison Information, indicating the SPI has passed the certification exam of the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC). SPIs provide phone triage to health care professionals and callers from the public and are seeking management advice for a patient who has been exposed to a poison or medication overdose. Typical types of exposure calls include medications, batteries, cleaning products, mushrooms and plants, snake bites, food poisoning, carbon monoxide, insect bites or bee stings, eye exposures, recalls, drug interactions, algae, pill identification, plus many more. SPIs gather information from the caller and recommend management and treatment needed for the patient.
The Iowa Poison Control Center has two toxicologists who are on call 24/7/365 and whom review hospital inpatient cases and make treatment recommendations when needed. There are also two pharmacists on staff.
A nursing background with critical care experience is highly recommended for working in the poison control center. Skills needed include: strong troubleshooting and critical thinking skills along with excellent verbal and written communication skills. Computer, typing and multitasking are also very important.
Making a Daily Difference: Working at the poison control center is not just a desk job. Poison centers save millions of dollars in health care costs but also save many lives. Poisoning is the leading cause of death from unintentional injury, ahead of motor vehicle accidents according to the CDC. Poison centers make a difference in these numbers! Every SPI working here will tell you they did not truly understand the job until they worked here, but have since found the job very rewarding.
All In A Day's Work: ER nurse calls with an adult who took intentional OD with cetirizine ~ 13 month old given double dose of acetaminophen ~ Adult bitten yesterday by a "poisonous" snake ~ Nurse calling from ER with intentional lorazepam OD ~ Nurse calling from ER with adult intentional clonazepam and alcohol OD ~ 4 year old drank mouthful of dish soap ~ adult sprayed Round-Up 2 days ago and is now sick ~ Mom calling about 19 year old who took zolpidem instead of fexofenadine and now is hallucinating ~ Nurse line transfers parent with a 4 year old who brushed teeth with acne cream ~ senior citizen swallowed a mouthful of gasoline while siphoning ~ ER nurse calling with adult enroute by EMS after getting pool chemical sprayed in face and eyes at work ~ adult calling about carbon monoxide and sewer gas ~ ER doctor calling with 14 year old intention polydrug OD ~ 2 year old ate some silica gel beads ~ Paramedic calls from scene with 58 year old found down next to pill bottles ~ Two children found eating the gummy vitamins ~ Dog ate a mouthful of onion ~ Child had leaf of unknown named houseplant in his mouth ~ 20 month old may have ingested 5 tabs of levothyroxine ~ Toddler bit into the automatic dishwasher packet ~ Child had diaper rash ointment on hand and put hand in mouth ~ Child got taste of nail polish remover ~ Child bit into the laundry detergent pod and is vomiting ~ school nurse calls with 10 year old who swallowed sip of hand sanitizer ~ Toddler found mushroom in the lawn but unknown if ingested any.