Written By: Maryland Poison Center Staff
This post originally appeared on the Maryland Poison Center’s blog, eAntidote.
One of the additional services we provide at the Maryland Poison Center (MPC) is training and education. We often have students from the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy or the University of Maryland School of Nursing rotating through the poison center for their respective programs. Pharmacy students focus on the work of the poison specialists, while nursing students are learning about the public health aspect of the service we provide. Throughout their time at the poison center, they attend case conferences and other toxicology presentations, listen to calls, and the pharmacy students even take some calls under direct supervision of our experienced poison specialists. Read on to learn about the experiences and reflections of Ronne (pharmacy student) and Caitlin (nursing student) during their Fall 2022 rotations.
What did you know about the poison center before your rotation?
Ronne: Prior to pharmacy school I didn’t know much about poison centers or what they did. Bruce Anderson, PharmD, executive director of the MPC and professor in the Department of Practice, Sciences, and Health Outcomes Research, was a guest lecturer in one of my courses and he talked about poisons and toxicology. He caught my attention and made the lesson very intriguing. I talked to some other pharmacy students who had rotated through prior and they highly recommended doing a rotation at the MPC.
Caitlin: I honestly did not know much about the poison center before my rotation. I had heard about it when I was younger, but honestly did not know how active it is in making treatment recommendations and educating the public about poison safety.
What surprised you about the poison center?
Ronne: I am surprised by how much health care providers call the MPC for assistance in cases. Also, by the camaraderie and connection that the MPC has with other poison centers across the country. I often attended grand rounds with other poison centers and presentations from toxicologists around the country.
Caitlin: I’m surprised about how much the hospital interacts with MPC. The poison center has so many great resources for health care workers.
What is a poison myth you’d like to share with others?
Ronne: Pharmacists and nurses are the people who answer the phones, not robots or volunteers reading from a flow chart. The poison specialists at the MPC have a combined 210 years of experience managing poisonings!
Caitlin: People don’t call just for poisonings. You can also call for information about medicines, dosages of medicines, plants, animal bites and stings, and more!
What was your most memorable case or type of case?
Ronne: A granddaughter called for her grandma who ingested a multi-purpose cleaner. It was accidentally stored in the fridge and mistaken for juice. When I saw a picture of the product, I understood why it was mistaken for juice! The shape of the bottle and color of the liquid looked just like juice. Be sure to store cleaning products away from food and drink products to avoid the mistake.
Caitlin: My most memorable case was someone who called in concerned because they drank out of the same beverage as their animal. It wasn’t a situation I would’ve thought to call the poison center for, but the poison specialist was able to help her. Another case I learned a lot from was a hospital that called about a medicine someone had taken that caused an adverse reaction and the hospital was asking for advice on treatment. It’s great how the poison specialists are non-judgmental and give callers great advice.
What will you take away, professionally or personally, after the rotation?
Ronne: Personally, the staff at the MPC is irreplaceable. They are the unsung heroes. You don’t realize how important they are until you need them. Poison specialists are available 24/7, even on holidays. People often take call centers for granted, but poison specialists can save you a trip to the emergency room, and even in some cases your life! Professionally, everyone in the poison center community was welcoming and taught me a lot. Engaging in toxicology rounds gave me the opportunity to meet different professionals. Joshua King, MD, the MPC medical director, made a big impact on me. He has a very unique professional background working in both nephrology and toxicology and he taught me a lot.
Caitlin: I make sure that everyone I know has the poison center phone number! You never know when you’ll need it.
As always, the poison specialists at the Maryland Poison Center are available 27/7 by calling 1-800-222-1222. Calling is free and confidential.