1. Tell me your history with poison control and how you became a SPI.
My name is Serena Frederick and I am a Specialist of Poison Information II, Certified (C-SPI II) at the Southeast Texas Poison Center in Galveston, Texas. I have worked here since January 2011 "this time" but actually worked here for a 6 month period in 1987. I am a Registered Nurse, and have been in Nursing for a total of 33 years now and have nursing experience in Critical Care, Psychiatry, Orthopedic Surgery, and Reproductive Endocrinology. In 1987 I was not "seasoned enough" and had not enough life and work experience to feel like I would be able to contribute to the Poison Center, so went back to inpatient nursing after 6 months here. I am now "seasoned" , and with the advent of technology have been able to fulfill the requirements of the role and the needs of the Center by making this part of my nursing career, coming back and making it a win-win-win for Center-Self-Client.
2. I’m sure you hear a lot of interesting stories when answering calls, but what is one story that sticks out in your head that might have been scary, but turned out funny and/or everything worked out after the call.
There are so VERY many cases and stories and calls that come through that are memorable. Some have been scary (ER code in progress, EMS on scene, multiple exposures at the same time) and others have been "lighter" in their nature. The calls that are most memorable though are the ones where the client on the receiving end of the call relates to you how much better they feel after talking with you, how you helped them to calm down during their event, how you have made a difference in their experience and led them to understanding.
3. What do you think people need to know about the people who answer the phones for poison control?
I would like people to know that we SPI's that answer the phone are well-educated, well-trained, and non-scripted professionals that can think "on the fly" and approach each call based on what the needs for that particular caller are in light of the exposure information that is provided to us. We ask a lot of questions, but NOT because of a "box to fill" but because we need specific information to give the best information to the caller to help make a decision in an educated and "non-guess" or "purely by the book" approach. We are real, live persons on the other end: no apps, no dialogue algorithms, no computer program that tells us what to say......we are for REAL!
4. What do you enjoy most about your job and why?
This job is challenging, and I like that. There is not a day that goes by where I do not learn something new during the shift. You could never make the claim that this job would allow you to become "intellectually stale" because you have to be able to think off the grid, on the fly, out of the box and be on GO at all times! There is never any way to know WHAT is going to come over the line with each specific call, so being receptive and objective, and being able to engage the caller is critical....I believe it is called "people skills" !
5. Why do you think it is important for people to have poison control as a resource for emergency help?
I know that we can prevent a lot of unnecessary trips to the Emergency Services for the general public. We also provide a high-level professional resource for the medical community. The most important calls to me though are the ones where you actually can help someone get direction to get IN TO the Emergency Services system when they need to, because every time that is done there is potentially a life that may have been saved! What a great reward, knowing in your heart and soul that you actually helped someone who otherwise not have been helped or known where to turn!