Drug Safety Nurse Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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Learn about a drug safety nurse's job description, salary and training requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a drug safety nurse career.
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Pros and Cons of a Drug Safety Nurse Career

Drug safety nurses, also known as drug safety specialists, can specialize in planning, scheduling and analyzing safety procedures for pharmaceutical companies. Read the pros and cons of this career to determine if it's right for you.

Pros of a Drug Safety Nurse Career
Above-average salary (mean annual income of about $69,000 for RNs in 2014)*
Positive job outlook (19% expected growth between 2012-2022)*
Will be ensuring the safety of others**
RNs can start working after completing only an associate degree*

Cons of a Drug Safety Nurse Career
Years of experience required for almost all drug safety nurse jobs**
Long hours are common for nurses*
Most drug safety specialists need a bachelor's degree**
Working as an RN can be physically straining (standing, walking, bending, etc.)*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Job Postings from 2012

Essential Career Info

Job Duties

Many drug safety nurses typically work in pharmaceutical companies to monitor the use of drugs on the market. Drug safety nurses examine the safety of various drugs by conducting research and analyzing data. They may be responsible for writing reports or conducting investigations on the safety of some drugs.

Drug safety nurses may be responsible for the initial receipt, documentation, follow-up and assessment of domestic and foreign adverse drug event reports received from patients and healthcare professionals. They may need to provide medical and technical information to health care professionals and patients relating to product safety.

Salary and Employment Outlook

The BLS reported that the mean annual income for registered nurses was $69,790 as of 2014. As a drug safety nurse, your income will vary depending on whether you work for a pharmaceutical company or health care organizations - corporate jobs tend to pay more overall.

The BLS predicts that employment opportunities for nurses will be among the fastest growing in the American economy. As pharmaceutical companies continue to create new medicines to treat various diseases, they will require additional drug safety nurses to monitor the long-term safety of these drugs and to make recommendations for prescribing habits.

Education and Training Requirements

Before applicants can be considered for a position as a drug safety specialist, you must be an RN with a valid state nursing license. You can qualify to work as an RN after completing just a diploma or an associate degree, but most drug safety specialist positions call for a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

Nursing degree programs include courses in biology, chemistry, anatomy, nutrition, psychology and other sciences. Programs also require a hands-on practicum component. After completing the necessary schooling, you must pass the licensure exam, called the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).

Necessary Skills

To succeed as a drug safety nurse, you need to be able to analyze data and work with several computer programs and systems. Excellent attention to detail is necessary, as are above average communication skills. You need to be able to communicate in person as well as in writing in order to deal with the professional responsibilities associated with this job.

What Employers are Looking for

In most cases, employers want to hire a drug safety specialist that holds at least a bachelor's degree, though the subject could vary. Many employers seek graduates of BSN programs who are licensed RNs, but some employers may also accept bachelor's degrees in subjects like pharmacy or health sciences. Work experience in pharmacy is also typically required. Here are summaries of current job listings in this field as of May 2012:

  • A pharmaceutical company in Springfield, New Jersey, is looking for a drug safety specialist with a bachelor's degree in nursing, pharmacy, health sciences, epidemiology, public health, or other relevant health-related field and experience in pharmacovigilance. They are looking for someone with strong communication and interpersonal skills who is able to organize and carry out several projects at once. Data analysis skills are preferred.
  • A company in Illinois is looking for an RN with at least five years of medical review experience and a bachelor's degree. They are seeking someone with pharmacovigilance expertise to organize and manage multiple case files out of the corporate headquarters. Strong medical communication skills are needed.
  • A biopharmaceutical company in California is looking for a drug safety specialist with a bachelor's degree in nursing or a related field, as well as about 2-4 years of experience in the field. The specialist would enter data, identify opportunities to improve quality, collaborate on research and train junior staff.

How to Excel in the Field

Staying up-to-date on the latest pharmaceutical trends and newly released drugs will help you stay current in this profession. Experience in pharmaceuticals, research and development, or medical reviewing could be preferred by employers. You can read medical journals and attend lectures on the latest innovations in pharmacology. It is also a good idea to maintain strong computer skills, and to learn to use new programs that may be relevant to the healthcare field.

Other Careers to Consider

Dental Hygienist

If you'd like a medical career with less training requirements and that involves working directly with patients, you may want to think about becoming a dental hygienist. Dental hygienists work in dentist offices examining patients' gums and teeth. This career his expected to see a 38% growth from 2010-2020, according to the BLS, and is highly transferable around the country. As of 2011, dental hygienists earned a median annual wage of about $70,000, according to the BLS.

Physician Assistant

If you love working with patients in the medical realm, and want the ability to prescribe medication as well as see patients, you may consider becoming a physician assistant (PA). PAs earned a median annual wage of about $89,000 as of 2011, according to the BLS, and they were expected to see a 30% increase in employment from 2010-2020. To become a PA you will need a master's degree. PAs work in a variety of healthcare settings, and usually interact one-on-one with patients.

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Featured Schools

American InterContinental University

  • Master of Healthcare Management
  • Master of Business Admin: Healthcare Admin
  • Bachelor of Business Admin: Healthcare Management
  • Bachelor of Healthcare Management - HSA Mgt.

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Keiser University

  • Associate of Sciences - Medical Assistant

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Colorado State University Global

  • Graduate Specialization - Healthcare Administration

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The University of Scranton

  • MBA - Healthcare Management
  • Master of Health Administration
  • Executive Certificate in Health Administration

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Saint Joseph's University

  • MS Health Administration

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Northcentral University

  • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration

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Brightwood College

  • Pharmacy Technician Certificate

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Queens University of Charlotte

  • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management
  • Master of Health Administration

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