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Oncology Nurse

By EveryNurse Staff on January 12, 2023

Oncology Nurse

An Oncology Nurse works with patients suffering from cancer and other related diseases. They provide care, comfort, and support to patients and their families as they struggle with the physical, psychological, and social effects of cancer. An Oncology Nurse is responsible for developing, implementing, and managing an individualized plan of care that promotes quality of life and maximizes functional abilities for their patients.

What Is an Oncology Nurse?

Oncology refers to the study of the biological process of cancer or the study of a disease in which abnormal cells grow uncontrollably and destructively. It also refers to the department within a hospital in which patients with cancer are cared for by specially trained nurses and doctors.

An Oncology Nurse is a professional nurse that specializes in caring for people who have been diagnosed with any type of cancer including but not limited to leukemia, lymphoma, sarcomas, carcinomas, and germ cell tumors. An Oncology Nurse is part of the multidisciplinary team, which also includes doctors, surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation therapy specialists, and others.

What Does an Oncology Nurse Do?

An Oncology Nurse provides supportive cancer-related nursing care for patients and their families following diagnosis and during the course of treatment. Their responsibilities include providing emotional support, administering medication, monitoring the patients’ status, changing dressings, preparing them for tests and procedures, and dealing with pain relief.

Oncology nurses spend constant one-on-one time with their patients, often developing strong personal relationships with the people under their care, as well as their families. These personal bonds are an essential part of the nurse’s role, as they go beyond addressing cancer itself and help to alleviate the stress and trauma associated with cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Oncology Nurse Job Description

As an oncology nurse, you may be responsible for:

  • Assessing and developing a personalized plan of care for each patient
  • Administering medications and treatments as directed by the doctor, medical oncologist, and other health care professionals
  • Observing, recording, and reporting changes in your patient’s condition to doctors and other health care providers
  • Providing patients with information about their disease, treatment plan, medications, home care needs, follow-up appointments, and referrals to community resources
  • Working with patients’ families to ensure they are educated about their loved one’s disease and treatment
  • Providing emotional support for patients, families, and caregivers
  • Encouraging patients to express concerns or feelings related to their cancer diagnosis without fear of judgement

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Oncology Nurse Skills and Qualifications

In general, all nurses serving oncology patients must have the clinical experience and patient care skills to meet the specific needs of this patient population. Additionally, the practice of oncology nursing requires emotional resilience, strong interpersonal, critical thinking, and communication skills, as well as the ability to remain calm and act quickly in difficult circumstances.

Oncology nurses must also be highly familiar with the oncology treatment process, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and surgery, as well as symptom and pain management. For example, an oncology nurse should be able to help the patient find medication to control his or her symptoms of nausea, pain, or constipation. Other key traits for oncology nurses include:

  • Strong observational, diagnostic, and organizational skills
  • Knowledge of the mechanisms by which cancer is spread and how it affects the body
  • Ability to remain calm and collected in crisis situations and perform life-saving interventions when necessary
  • Respect for confidentiality and privacy
  • Ability to answer questions and explain complex topics to patients and families with compassion, empathy, and patience

Oncology Nurse Certification

Oncology nursing certification allows nurses to distinguish themselves as having the qualifications and body of knowledge necessary to provide the highest quality of oncology nursing care. The Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC) currently offers certification for eight oncology specialties, including:

  • Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN®)
  • Certified Pediatric Hematology Oncology Nurse (CPHON®)
  • Certified Breast Care Nurse (CBCN®)
  • Blood & Marrow Transplant Certified Nurse (BMTCN®)
  • Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner (AOCNP®)
  • Advanced Oncology Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist (AOCNS®)
  • Certified Pediatric Oncology Nurse (CPON®)
  • Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse (AOCN®)

Oncology Nurse Jobs

Like many areas of nursing, oncology has become increasingly specialized and varied. Nurses working with oncology patients may hold a variety of job titles and credentials, and choose to focus on a specific patient population, such as children or adults, men or women, or a specific subset of cancer (breast, lung, etc.).

Oncology nurses tend to work in a variety of settings, including acute care hospitals, ambulatory and specialty cancer centers, infusion or chemotherapy clinics, nursing homes, outpatient surgery centers, hospice facilities, and long-term care facilities for elderly patients with cancer. Some oncology nurses even go into private practice as independent contractors working directly with their own patients to provide them personal care and support.

Common job titles held by oncology nurses include:

Pediatric Oncology Nurse

Pediatric oncology nurses work in a pediatric cancer hospital and may help to coordinate the care of infants, children, or teenagers diagnosed with cancers such as leukemia or lymphoma. They work side-by-side with other pediatric nurses and provide education for patients, families, and other health care providers regarding the disease process and treatment plan, while also providing emotional support throughout diagnosis and treatment.

Oncology Nurse Navigator

An oncology nurse navigator is a registered nurse who helps guide cancer patients from diagnosis through treatment and recovery. A nurse navigator may serve as a link between the patient and various departments to coordinate their care and overcome barriers they may be facing in the healthcare system. Nurse navigators are experts at facilitating timely and quality access to care through all phases of the cancer journey.

Oncology Nurse Practitioner

An oncology nurse practitioner (ONP) is a registered nurse who holds a master’s degree and has passed a certification exam to become an advanced practice registered nurse. ONPs may serve as the primary care provider for patients, providing education about their disease process and treatment plan throughout diagnosis and treatment. ONPs can also provide counseling for patients with cancer, offering support to patients and families.

Oncology Travel Nurse

An oncology nurse who takes temporary assignments in cities, states, or even countries is known as a per diem (short-term) nurse. Often hospitals and other healthcare facilities need additional nursing staff at certain times of the year when they experience high patient volume or need to fill a nursing position that may be vacant. Nurse staffing agencies send travel nurses to fill these temporary positions at hospitals or clinics in need.

Radiation Oncology Nurse

Nurses who work with patients undergoing radiation therapy are known as radiation oncology nurses. These nurses may help prepare patients with cancer for their treatments, educate patients about their disease process and treatment plan, or provide emotional support during the treatment process. Radiation oncology nurses work closely with radiation therapists to optimize the benefits from every treatment session.

Oncology Nurse Salary

According to the National Cancer Institute, there were an estimated 1,806,590 new cases of cancer and 606,520 deaths from cancer in the United States in 2020. By 2030, the number of new cancer cases is projected to reach 2,500,920 per year.

These unfortunate statistics give rise to the high demand for oncology nurses, who are vital to helping cancer patients cope with their disease and treatment. According to the most recent salary survey conducted by ZipRecruiter, oncology nurses earned an average annual salary of $87,340, which is higher than the mean annual wage for registered nurses ($80,010) as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Highest Paying States for Oncology Nurses

New York$46.71$97,150
New Hampshire$45.26$94,136
* Zip Recruiter, Average Oncology Nurse Salary by State, January 2022

Additional Resources for Oncology Nurses

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