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.
Oncology nurses are regularly tasked with the following duties:
Oncology nurses care for cancer patients in the following environments:
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.
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.
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.
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:
Eligibility requirements for ONS/ONCC Chemotherapy Biotherapy Certificate:
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.
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.