Learn more about the duties, practice settings, typical workdays, and educational opportunities, as well as personal advice from pharmacists in this practice area.
What is the toxicology pharmacy field?
Toxicology is the study of the harmful effects that medications, chemicals, or other substances can have on patients. The study and practice of toxicology can be very diverse, depending on the specific training and practice area of the individual pharmacist.
Where does a toxicologist work?
A toxicologist can work in a variety of practice settings including a poison center, emergency department, and school of pharmacy.
What does a typical workday look like?
For a poison center-based toxicologist, jobs range from being a poison specialist answering calls from the public and healthcare professionals to being a managing/operations director of a whole center. A managing director works hand-in-hand with a medical director (a board-certified, physician medical toxicologist). Toxicologists attend daily toxicology rounds at local hospitals with a toxicology consult team. Pharmacists working as toxicology faculty will have a teaching component and will take students for learning experiences, either at the poison center or a hospital. Poison centers also have public and healthcare professional educators, often pharmacists, who teach the community about poisons. They travel around the state and interface directly with schools. Toxicology pharmacists also practice in forensic toxicology and work at places like the FDA, CDC, FBI, and NIH. Others practice as emergency medicine, critical care, or pediatric clinical specialists in hospital settings.
What education and training are needed to pursue this pharmacy career path?
Most pharmacists practicing in toxicology have completed a toxicology fellowship. PGY1 residency training is encouraged, but not required, for all fellowships. Other paths to board certification in clinical toxicology include PGY2 training in emergency medicine, critical care, pediatrics, and psychiatry with additional toxicology experience after residency completion.
What educational opportunities are available for pharmacists in this area?
- Board Certification in Clinical Toxicology (DABAT) is accomplished through the American Board of Applied Toxicology (ABAT), a committee of the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology (AACT).
- View the residencies specific to toxicology: https://www.clintox.org/resources/abat/clinical-toxicology-fellowships-dabat-directors.
How can I learn more about this career path?
- The best way to learn more about this career path is through the ABAT website: https://www.clintox.org/resources/abat.
- Many pharmacists completing toxicology fellowships go on to work as managing directors at poison centers. However, there is an increasing number who practice as emergency medicine pharmacists. These two fields are invariably linked, and there is much crossover. In fact, toxicology is required as part of ASHP-accredited PGY2 emergency medicine residencies.
- AJHP also published an article on clinical toxicology residencies and fellowships which describes the career path: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21378295/.
Member Career Profiles
Bryan D. Hayes, PharmD, DABAT, FAACT, FASHP
Attending Pharmacist, Emergency Medicine & Toxicology, Massachusetts General Hospital
Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine, Harvard Medical School
President, American Board of Applied Toxicology
What interested you in pharmacy and this career path?
“My path was a bit unique. I describe it in more detail in this Academic Life in Emergency Medicine blog post: https://www.aliem.com/training-of-em-pharmacist/. In pharmacy school, I took an elective course in emergency medicine pharmacotherapy which really started my interest. Then as a PGY1 resident, we were required to attend a weekly toxicology case conference. It was the perfect interface of chemistry (my B.S. degree) and clinical patient care. After PGY1, I completed a two-year toxicology fellowship and then became a clinical pharmacy specialist in emergency medicine.”
What advice do you have for someone interested in this career field?
“A career in toxicology as a pharmacist is going to require more years of training than most other specialty areas (usually two to three postgraduate years). I recommend talking with pharmacists who practice in this field to make sure it is the right decision for you. If you are interested, try to get as much exposure to it as you can while in pharmacy school. Take a poison center rotation, volunteer to help the poison center educators at health fairs, and look for research/writing opportunities with pharmacy school faculty who practice in toxicology.”