How to Become an Oncology Nurse?

Nursing is at a boom in the USA. If you want to pursue your career in this field, then the first stage is to become a certified nursing assistant (CNA). After that, you can move further to license practical nurse (LPN), registered nurse (RN), etc. Oncology is a medical terminology that stands for a specialized branch of medicine that deals with the study of cancer, and thus, oncology nurse is the one who serves for cancer patients.

Cancer is much more than a physical disease as it affects every aspect of a patient’s being. Oncology nurses help patients and their families deal with the difficult situation.

Various CNAs assist these nurses in completing their tasks and taking care of the patients in an appropriate manner. They also have expertise in pain control. Oncology nurses master in providing complete health care to cancer patients.

Certification as an oncology nurse is a voluntary process. It signifies that the respective candidate has the desired qualification and knowledge of the cancer specialty area and has also kept updated in the education.

Certification has a validity duration of four years, and after that validity expires, it has to be renewed by the process of re-certification by earning a specific number of continuing education credits.

To become certified, nurses must hold an RN license, fulfill eligibility pre-requisites, have enough of nursing experience and specialty practice, etc.

They need to and pass a multiple-choice test. For the advanced certifications, a nurse must hold a master’s degree or higher in nursing and a minimum of 500 hours of supervised clinical practice of oncology nursing.

The AOCNP certification also requires the successful completion of an accredited nurse practitioner. The need for oncology nurses can be justified as –

  • Needs of individuals with cancer, at risk for developing cancer or surviving cancer
  • National and international recognition of cancer as a major chronic health problem
  • Advances in science and technology

Oncology nurses are certified in either of these 6 ways –

Basic Certification Includes

  • OCN: Oncology Certified Nurse
  • CPON: Certified Pediatric Oncology Nurse
  • CBCN: Certified Breast Care Nurse

Advanced Certification Includes

  • AOCN: Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse
  • AOCNP: Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner
  • AOCNS: Advanced Oncology Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist

Job Responsibilities of Oncology Nurse

Oncology nurses are responsible for offering health care for cancer patients and those who are at the risk of getting cancer.

Their principal responsibilities are

  • Monitor the physical condition of patients
  • Prescribe basic medication
  • Administer chemotherapy sessions
  • Assist the doctors in other treatments

This is indeed a challenging field to work in because every day of the duty is different and gives a different experience. It also provides a rewarding experience and job satisfaction for serving cancer patients.

The practice of oncology nursing involves various roles such as

  • Direct caregiver
  • Educator
  • Consultant
  • Administrator
  • And researcher

Oncology nursing extends to all care delivery settings where those who have cancer or at risk for developing cancer receive health care, education, and counseling for cancer prevention, screening, and detection.

The oncology nurse is also a coordinator of health care, collaborating with other cancer care providers and team members to provide required care as effectively as possible.

The advanced practice also may include the roles of direct caregiver, coordinator, consultant, educator, researcher, and administrator.

They can provide, guide, and evaluate nursing practice delivered to individuals diagnosed with cancer, their families, and the community.

They work expertly with the multidisciplinary oncology team to achieve realistic health care goals for the patients. They provide expertise about oncology and perform a variety of patient education activities.

In some states or some specific medical settings, they also have the authority to recognize and investigate researchable problems, and those research findings that affect cancer care or nursing.

What is it like to be an oncology nurse?

Listen from an oncology nurse herself


Skills to be Possessed by Oncology Nurses

  • Oncology nurses must have a basic knowledge of cancer care. They must understand the basic genetics, biochemistry, and physiology of cancer
  • They must be familiar with the most common cancer treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation
  • They must be prepared to deal with the many side effects of cancer treatment
  • They should also be compassionate

The demand for oncology nurses is expected to increase over the next few years as the population ages because cancer occurs mostly after the age of 55.

However, the advanced technology and the service by oncology nurses are very much useful in cancer treatment and cure.

Cancer patients today are surviving longer than ever before, and this gives the raising opportunities in the field of specialized nursing such as oncology nursing.