Oncology Nurse at a Glance
These relationships are crucial in creating a comprehensive plan of treatment beyond addressing the cancer itself. Oncology Nurses know what their patients need mentally and emotionally to give them the strength to face their diagnosis head on, and provide a pillar of stability for them to lean on when the physical and emotional stresses of cancer treatment begin to take their toll.
What’s the Demand for Oncology Nurses?
Unfortunately, the number of cancer patients in the US is increasing every year, so Oncology Nurses are always in demand. Beyond just filling positions with people who have clinical expertise, hospitals and cancer care centers want Oncology Nurses who are compassionate and clear communicators, and who can handle the emotional toll of a profession where many patients are terminally ill.
How Do You Become an Oncology Nurse?
To become an Oncology Nurse, you must earn a minimum of an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN), but earning your Bachelor’s Degree in the Science of Nursing (BSN) will give you a competitive edge to prospective employers.
After completing your chosen degree, you must earn your license as a Registered Nurse and gain at least 1,000 hours of contact experience, 10 of which must be completed in Oncology. Because there are so many different manifestations of cancer and treatments for them, it’s crucial for incoming Oncology Nurses to have a comprehensive base of knowledge before becoming certified specialists.
You’ll be working in one of the most challenging and rewarding fields of nursing where every day is different.
Oncology Nurses hold dynamic daily responsibilities, ranging from clinical care to emotional support and companionship. Having a potentially terminal diagnosis can be extremely isolating for patients, so it’s important for Oncology Nurses to keep this in mind as they approach their daily tasks. These tasks vary depending on where you work and what you specialize in, and present unique technical and emotional challenges for you and your patients.
As a care provider who regularly interacts with patients on both a clinical and personal level, you’ll be relied on to advocate for your patients’ needs to both their families and broader healthcare team. You’ll know how they react to treatments, you’ll know what emotional barriers they might be struggling with, and you’ll be their voice if they can’t communicate for themselves.
As the main professional point of contact for your patients and their families, you’ll advise and teach them about the symptoms they might encounter during treatment, offer techniques for managing symptoms or pain, and communicate their treatment plans in a digestible manner. In these educational moments, it’s important that you’re honest with your patients without speaking in such a clinical manner that you feel removed from their experience. Be compassionate, be straightforward, and do your best to be a pillar of confidence amidst an extremely difficult and uncertain time for these individuals and their loved ones.
As an Oncology Nurse, it’s important to be in tune with the support techniques that work best for each patient. This may feel challenging to someone not facing a potentially terminal diagnosis, so when in doubt, be an active listener. When patients are likely being spoken to in a highly clinical manner, it’s crucial for you to provide a space where they can feel comfortable freely voicing their concerns, questions and emotions.
Depending on your level of certification, you’ll administer treatments like chemotherapy or radiation, monitor your patients vitals and symptoms, assist in managing side effects, and work with your patients’ broader care team to create custom treatment plans for their diagnoses.
As individuals at the forefront of cancer care, Oncology Nurses are always finding new ways to support their patients. This often leads to innovations tailored to each patient, and sometimes leads to entirely new methodologies that are scaled across cancer care facilities. Recognizing the innovative nature of the Oncology Nursing field, in 2019 the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) launched a dedicated center for innovation, where cancer care providers can connect and share their experiences or findings, and hopefully develop new solutions to transform cancer care as we know it.
- HospitalsIn a hospital setting, Oncology Nurses tend to assist in coordinating cancer care, assisting in surgical prep, addressing any patient questions surrounding procedures or treatment measures and overall patient wellness.
- Doctors' officeWithin Oncology Physician offices, Oncology Nurses mainly function as patient educators. These offices typically work with non-surgical management of cancer, administering chemotherapy and other methods of systematic therapy to reduce or eliminate cancerous threats.
- Outpatient care centerOncology-focused outpatient care centers typically provide minimally invasive treatments such as chemotherapy and infusions. Here, Oncology nurses aid in administering treatment, providing support and ensuring their patients are informed about the treatments they’re receiving and what they might expect moving forward in their care plan.
Pass the NCLEX-RN.
As with most nursing specialties, you’re required to earn your license as a registered nurse before pursuing any further education or certification.
Work as a Registered Nurse, gaining 1,000 hours’ experience and 10 contact hours in Oncology.
Oncology Nurses are required to gain an especially thorough amount of clinical experience before getting certified. Not only does this ensure that they have the proper training, but it also gives them a chance to test their capacity in a profession that can be emotionally draining.
Pass the Oncology Certified Nurse Board exam through the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation.
Once passed, your certification is valid for four years.
You’re ready to work as an Oncology Nurse!
Oncology Nursing Society
Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing
Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses