Posted on: November 16, 2020
The Palmetto Poison Center, housed within the College of Pharmacy at the University of South Carolina, has again received accreditation by the American Association of Poison Control Centers, which establishes standards for poison control centers in the United States.
Accreditation ensures that all residents within a geographic region have access to the highest quality of certified poison center services. Certification criteria require that centers provide poison information services 24 hours/7 days a week for both health professional and the public; provide full time toxicological supervision; and provide public education activities.
We are staffed by health care professionals, including pharmacists and nurses, who are formally trained in toxicology as specialists in poison information.
Christina DeRienzo Education Coordinator, Palmetto Poison Center
“We first received accreditation in 2006 and it currently lasts for seven years,” says Christina DeRienzo, education coordinator for the center, which provides support for the state of South Carolina. “We are staffed by health care professionals, including pharmacists and nurses, who are formally trained in toxicology as specialists in poison information. We are also an experiential rotation site for fourth year pharmacy students, in addition to being involved in educational training of emergency medicine physicians and pediatricians.”
There are currently 55 such accredited poison control centers in the nation. DeRienzo, who serves on the accreditation committee to review other programs, knows just how rigorous the process is to receive accreditation.
“You must track all your data, oversight and clinical supervision and provide a measure of your work,” she says. “The committee can question you on anything such as scheduling staff, oversight that is available on any particular day, and the number of phone calls occurring in a certain county. They look at the entire picture.”
For every dollar spent on our poison control center, we save $13 in unnecessary cost by keeping people out of emergency rooms or out of doctors’ offices ...
DeRienzo stresses the important role the center has in reducing health care costs. “For every dollar spent on our poison control center, we save $13 in unnecessary cost by keeping people out of emergency rooms or out of doctors’ offices. We are able to keep the patient at home eighty percent of the time.”
The center currently fields approximately 30,000 calls annually, a number that does not include the multiple follow-up calls to hospital and patients. “We always follow a patient to an outcome,” she adds.
The center is also a key resource for rural health care providers. “Some physicians working in rural communities may not have access to a toxicologist at any given time. We then become that resource for the doctor to provide the best care for the patient, improving outcomes as well as the length of stay in the hospital.”
Fourth year pharmacy students have opportunities to complete elective rotations with the poison center. “They get to experience what it is like to provide care in underserved communities and have the chance to do some community outreach,” says DeRienzo. “It helps them as pharmacist, especially if they’re doing community-based pharmacy.”
DeRienzo credits the center’s director, Jill Michels, 1996 Pharm.D., DABAT, with helping the center attain its accreditation. “The center was created around 1971,” she says, “and we were such a small center. Jill played a key role because we were an underdog, such a small little center. It was a huge deal because with accreditation, we were then able to receive federal funding.”