What Does a Toxicology Nurse Do?
Toxicology nurses are specially trained to work with patients who have ingested poisons or have otherwise come into contact with hazardous toxins. Some toxicology nurses even work with patients who have been bitten by venomous snakes or who are having a severe allergic reaction to a bee, wasp or scorpion sting. It all comes down to developing an individual plan of care for patients who have been exposed in one way or another to a poisonous or toxic substance. Toxicology nurses often work alongside pharmacists at poison control centers as telenurses, although they may work directly with patients in a variety of other health care facilities. That means they are often the professionals on the other end of the line when you call a poison control hotline and desperately need to know what to do. Toxicology nurses may also work in community health, speaking with the public, particularly young children, about the dangers of poisons and hazardous materials. Some emergency room nurses also have toxicology training.
How Can I Become a Toxicology Nurse?
The first step toward becoming a toxicology nurse is to complete an approved nursing education program. The most common way of doing this is to earn a degree in nursing. Most nurses have earned either an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited college or university, although the BSN is overwhelmingly the preferred degree. Less common is earning a nursing diploma, a program typically offered through hospitals. During your nursing education, it is helpful to take additional elective courses in pharmacology or poison control, if possible. After completing a nursing program, all future nurses go on to take an exam called the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) so they can become licensed to practice nursing in their state. Most nurses must gain a few years experience as a staff nurse working in critical care or intensive care unit (ICU) nursing before moving into toxicology nursing. After accumulating significant clinical experience working in toxicology, you can proceed to become a Certified Specialist in Poison Information by taking an exam offered through the American Association of Poison Control Centers.
What Is the Career and Salary Outlook for a Toxicology Nurse?
The career outlook for registered nurses overall is excellent, and experienced nurses who specialize in a particular area of health care, such as toxicology, are often highly sought-after. Becoming certified can greatly increase your job prospects. However, toxicology nursing is a niche profession with very little turnover, which means jobs that fit the description of a toxicology nurse could be scarce. The overall employment of registered nurses is projected to grow by 22 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average annual salary for a toxicology nurse is $47,000, according to SimplyHired.com, a site that calculates average salaries based on what is listed in the job postings it receives. A number of factors can affect your salary as a toxicology nurse, including how many years of experience you have, what certifications you have, what region of the U.S. you live in, and whether you are working in a metropolitan or rural area.