An oncology nurse is a specialized nurse who cares for patients with cancer. These nurses require advanced certifications and clinical experiences in oncology beyond what is offered by the typical high school nursing program. The field of healthcare that focuses on cancer is labeled with the term “oncology.” Oncology is the study and treatment of tumors, so oncologists are the doctors who work with cancer patients and cancer nurses are the nurses who work with cancer patients. Oncology nurses care for people of all ages who are diagnosed with cancer.
Oncology is a challenging field in which nurses support patients, families, and caregivers through the stress of diagnosis and treatment, and the anxiety of many uncertainties brought on by illness, including mortality. Cancer nurses have dynamic daily responsibilities, ranging from clinical care to emotional support and companionship. The Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN) offering from Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation is a prominent choice for cancer nurses. As an oncology nurse, it's important to be attuned to the supportive techniques that work best for each patient.
Learn more about cancer nursing by searching the web and talking to nurses currently working in the field. If your heart is with cancer patients and you want to be there during some of their most difficult times, oncology might be the right specialty for you. When studying part-time and year-round, oncology students should be able to complete the certificate in just one year. As with general nursing, your salary as a cancer nurse will depend on your level of education, years of experience, size of employer, and where you live and work.
Certification as a cancer nurse will vary from state to state, but the requirements are quite similar. The salary levels of cancer nurses are heavily influenced by current demand, and as cancer continues to place these nurses in high demand, their salaries are expected to remain high as well. While this may vary by employer, nurses in outpatient clinics generally work 8-hour or 9-hour shifts, while those working on oncology floors often work 12-hour shifts with fewer “set” days to balance it out. Oncology nurses must gain particularly extensive clinical experience before becoming certified.
However, many nurses choose to pursue a postgraduate education in oncology nursing, either a certificate or a graduate degree. Because cancer patients generally spend more time in the hospital and nurses spend most of their time with patients, the relationships you build with them will be special. The program meets the standards set by the Oncology Nursing Society Outreach and the Standards for Advanced Practice in Oncology Nursing and only takes one year or less. Although this certification is not available to those with no oncology experience as a registered nurse, Arriola recommends that recent graduates consider taking the Cancer Nursing Society's introductory course, Cancer Basics, to demonstrate their interest in this nursing specialty.
The oncology nurse has the opportunity to grow both professionally and personally, forming deep and trusting relationships with patients and their families over time.