Oncology Nurse

What Is an Oncology Nurse?

An oncology nurse is a specialized nurse who works closely with oncologists to care for patients of all ages who have been diagnosed with cancer. This field is one of the most emotionally taxing and rewarding nursing specialty fields that exists. It's an incredibly challenging field where nurses do their best to support patients, their loved ones, and caregivers through the exceptionally stressful time during diagnosis and treatment. These nurses also help patients and their loved ones deal with the extreme anxiety that comes along with the many uncertainties brought about by a cancer diagnosis, including the prospect of mortality. Oncology nurses are skilled specialists that play a significant role as part of the interdisciplinary healthcare team. They integrate technical skills, a caring attitude, as well as clinical and scientific knowledge to aid patients and their families along the perilous journey of a cancer diagnosis.

What Are Some Oncology Nurse Duties?

Oncology nurses are regularly tasked with the following duties:

  • Recognize and treat issues related to cancer
  • Help carry out individualized care plans for a wide variety of cancer patients
  • Provide education and emotional support to patients, their families, and caregivers
  • Work alongside and collaborate with a team of interdisciplinary healthcare professionals
  • Administer chemotherapy
  • Manage both sudden and long-term side effects of treatment
  • Constantly assess patients' ongoing physical, spiritual, and psychosocial status and adjust treatment accordingly
  • Conduct cancer research to enhance available treatment options and protocols
  • Communicate the treatment expectations to patients and families
  • Advocate for patients' needs
  • Monitor and chart a patient's condition and response to treatment and medication - adjust accordingly
  • Help to promote a positive outlook
  • Remain sensitive and empathetic to a patient's needs at all times

Where Do Oncology Nurses Work?

Oncology nurses care for cancer patients in the following environments:

  • Acute care hospital settings
  • Ambulatory care facilities
  • Community healthcare clinics
  • Surgical centers
  • Home health
  • Oncology offices/departments
  • Radiation or chemotherapy facilities
  • Inpatient facilities
  • Outpatient facilities

How to Become an Oncology Nurse

People decide to enter the oncology nursing specialty for varying reasons. Maybe someone you love has gone through cancer, or perhaps you have a genuine interest in the topic and have your own philanthropic ideas about ending cancer altogether. Regardless of what's driving you to become an oncology nurse, you should be aware that becoming one requires an extensive amount of education and a lot of specialized training. If you still think that a future career as an oncology nurse is right for you, read on to find out more about the requirements of this rewarding specialty.

Step1: Educational Requirements

If you're considering a career as an oncology nurse you should be prepared to first earn an ADN or BSN degree from an accredited university or college. After this has been achieved, the student must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to be licensed. Acquiring some professional nursing experience in the field is usually advantageous. Oncology nurses may want to take the exam to become an official Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN). Those who administer chemotherapy will also need to earn the ONS/ONCC Chemotherapy Biotherapy Certificate.

To become an Oncology Nurse Practitioner, you'll need to complete a master's degree in nursing (MSN), which generally takes about two years to complete. After completing the program, you can apply to become an Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) through your state's board of nursing. When your state has approved your status as an APN, the last step to become an Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner (AOCNP) is to accrue 500 hours of clinical practice under the supervision of an oncology department or institution.

Do Oncology Nurses Need an RN Degree?

Oncology nurses will need to hold an unencumbered RN license. This means that an ADN or BSN degree is necessary. Many hospitals are now requiring BSN degrees for employment, meaning that nurses who wish to work on oncology floors in hospitals may find it advantageous to hold this degree type.

Step 2: Required Oncology Nurse Certifications/Credentials

To gain an Oncology Nurse Certification (OCN) or Certified Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nursing (CPHON), you must do so through the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation.

Eligibility requirements to sit for the three-hour, 165 multiple-choice Oncology Nurse Certification Exam include:

  • Holding a current, active, and unrestricted RN license
  • Have two years of practice as an RN in the previous four years before applying
  • Have at least 2,000 hours of specialty nursing practice in adult oncology nursing practice for OCN, pediatric hematology/oncology nursing practice for Certified Pediatric Hematology Oncology Nurse (CPHON).
  • Have at least 10 contact hours of credential-specific continuing nursing education or academic elective finished in the previous three years before applying

Eligibility requirements for ONS/ONCC Chemotherapy Biotherapy Certificate:

  • Hold an Oncology Nurse Certification (OCN)
  • Successfully complete the ONS/ONCC Chemotherapy Biotherapy Certificate training course

Oncology Nursing Jobs, Salary & Employment

Today, the oncology field is drastically different from the way it was during the early days of cancer treatment. There are more treatment options, better pain control, and the treatment side effects aren't quite as damaging. The science of oncology nursing is dynamic and ever-changing. Many new and interesting therapies and treatments are coming into view. It's becoming more and more common for individuals who have made the transition from cancer patient to cancer survivor. Oncology nurses have and will continue to play a pivotal role in the cancer care continuum.

Job Description & Information

  • Essential Skills Needed - Able to psychologically cope with death and dying, compassion, emotional strength, excellent interpersonal communication abilities, detail-oriented, conscientious, works well in teams, and works well under pressure.
  • Job Outlook - The US BLS projects that employment rates for RNs will rise by 16% between 2014 and 2024. Due to advances in the oncology field and an aging population, the oncology nursing field is quite likely to grow at a faster rate than this.

What Is the Average Salary of an Oncology Nurse?

As per PayScale, oncology nurses make an average salary of $69,799 annually. Exact figures will depend heavily on factors like the city or state of employment, clinical experience in the field, education levels, certifications, and the employing organization. Similar factors will contribute to the kinds of employment benefit packages oncology nurses receive from their employers. With that being said, most employed oncology nurses will receive medical, dental, prescription, and sometimes life insurance coverage as well as a couple to a few weeks of paid time off each year.

How Much Do Oncology Nurses Make per Year?

  • $50,000 – $96,000 annually

How Much Do Oncology Nurses Make per Hour?

  • $32.04 average hourly wage

Oncology Nurse Resources