Oncology Nurse

Oncology Nurse Job Description & Scope of Practice
An oncology nurse is a nurse who provides care for patients who have cancer.  The care of oncology patients is a specialized area of nursing because it requires nurses to care for terminally or chronically ill patients.

The oncology or cancer nurse delivers a wide range of patient services including:

  • Monitor patients for physical conditions and symptoms
  • Assist in developing management strategies
  • Administer treatments including chemotherapy
  • Provide information to cancer patients
  • Assist in the screening, detection, and prevention of cancer
  • Works with other health care providers to administer high quality patient care

How to Become an Oncology Nurse

The nurse who specializes in oncology may work with patients with a diverse range of types of cancer.  Some nurses decide to focus on one primary area of oncology such as breast oncology, or GYN oncology.  When choosing a specialty it is essential to focus your education on that area by taking classes and seminars.  A cancer care nurse often treats terminally ill patients and must have compassion and a gentle nature.

Oncology is a very rewarding area of medicine.  Nurses may work in a clinical practice, a hospital, a hospice, a long-term care facility, or a medical center that specializes in cancer treatment.  Other options for nurses include becoming a researcher, consultant, or teacher.

Oncology Nurse Education Requirements, Certification, and Schooling Programs

The nursing careeer must begin by earning a Bachelor of Science Nursing Degree, BSN.  This may be accomplished at any reputable university with a good nursing program.  It is important to be sure to take specialty courses in the area of oncology throughout your educational career.  After successful completion of a BSN degree you will need to take and pass the licensing exam in order to become a licensed nurse.  The licensing exam is called the NCLEX-RN exam.

After earning a BSN degree and becoming licensed, you will need to gain nursing experience.  It is also helpful to earn a Master’s or Doctorate degree in nursing with a specialization in oncology.  Choose an advanced degree program that provides you with the knowledge you will specifically require to treat oncology patients. In addition to a strong educational background, cancer care nurses may choose to join the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS).  This is a professional organization of registered nurses dedicated to the education, care, and research of oncology nursing.  Applicants must meet eligibility requirements and pass an assessment exam.

The Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) recommends certification for nurses working in oncology. Certification, available through the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC), is accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). Applicants who fulfill eligibility requirements and pass an examination are awarded with the credential OCN or Oncology Certified Nurse. Eligibility is determined in several ways, with each requiring a combination of education and experience in the field. Certification is not required. However, the American Board of Nursing Specialties (ABNS) views certification as a formal recognition of the specialized skills needed to work in the oncology field.

Oncology Nurse Salary and Career Outlook

The need for all types of health care professionals, including nurses, is expected to climb substantially in the next decade or more.  Nurses with a specialty in oncology will be particularly in high demand because of the increase in the elderly population.  The field of oncology is quite broad, so the requirement for specialized nurses is very high. Specializing in a particular area of oncology may help to increase your salary.  The nurse with a specialty in oncology can expect a salary in the range between $55,000 and $75,000 per year.  Those oncology nurses with more education and experience will typically receive an annual salary at the high end of the scale.