My name is Jessica, and I have been working at the West Texas Regional Poison Center for two years. My initial training (and I say initial because the training is for a lifetime) as a new Specialist in Poison Information (SPI) consisted of reading toxicology books and articles and attending conferences and presentations to help me understand more about poisonings. After feeling like you are back in school, practice on the phones is next. After about a year of being a Specialist in Poison Information, I completed all the requirements to take the certification exam. Now I can say that I am a Certified Specialist in Poison Information ready to continue learning and helping our community.
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 a lot of interesting calls that we receive at the poison center. The stories that make an impact in my daily job are the calls when we are able to reduce the caller’s anxiety and ease the situation with the right explanation and proper recommendations.
The nurses, pharmacists, and physicians who answer the calls at the poison center are well-trained and use their toxicology training and critical thinking skills every day in every call. There is not a master algorithm that will provide the answer for all exposures. Every call is different. We have to ask a lot of questions to obtain as many details as possible to help the caller with their individual needs. Also, I would like to inform our community that our staff at the West Texas Regional Poison Center is 100% bilingual and we are ready to answer Spanish-speaking calls from all over Texas. I have encountered situations, where the caller only speaks Spanish, and they are frightened of a language barrier on top of their poisoning concern. Therefore, when you are in doubt, always call the poison center. We are open 24/7.
4. What do you enjoy most about your job and why?
One of the things that I enjoy the most about my job is that every SPI in the Texas Poison Center Network is very helpful. As a new SPI, I always felt like we are working in the same building even though we were spread out all over Texas. In addition, one of my favorite events is the Poison Jungle Safari where we get to go out to provide education for the community, especially for kids, in how to prevent poisoning. I enjoy this yearly event since I can have face-to-face interactions with the public and teach kids and parents that poison can be everywhere at any time. For example, we teach parents that children can easily mistake a bottle of vinegar with a bottle of apple juice, or how the color and shape of some medications are very similar to candy. Having these types of activities can help parents be more aware of the importance of keeping medications and cleaning products out of sight and out of children’s reach.
During my experience in the poison control center, I have learned that if the poison control center is consulted early in the treatment of a poison exposure, it can save unnecessary emergency room visits and ambulance transportation costs. For example, most of our calls that are regarding children with low to non-toxic exposures can be safely managed at home with proper recommendations and follow-up without the need to be seen in the emergency room or request an ambulance. The appropriate utilization of poison control centers makes an enormous impact on the healthcare system as a whole.