As anyone's 1st job in oncology?

  1. I posted this question in the graduate nurse forum but haven't heard from anyone. Did any of you start in oncology? How was it starting out, what was your orientation/training, what's a typical day like, etc?

    I graduate in May and have applied for the oncology floor at the hospital next to our cancer center. I am an 'older' student coming off of a 20+ years career in a nonmedical field. Oncology draws me for all the reasons it hooked you, I'm sure.

    Thanks in advance to those of you who reply!
    Last edit by RN007 on Jan 13, '07 : Reason: Typo.
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  2. 11 Comments

  3. by   oldnewnurse
    Hi there,

    Perhaps I can shed some light on this for you. After a 30 year career in telecommunications I went to nursing school and my first job as an ADN-RN was on an oncology floor in a 352 bed hospital with a 16 bed oncology unit. I stayed there for 18 months and then left to work as a hospice RN where I have been for 6 months while still working an occasional PRN shift at the hospital. Can't say I "love" either job, but I like them both very much for totally different reasons. I keep the PRN hospital job because I am working on my MSN and need an inpatient clinical site.

    As an RN on the oncology floor, we typically have 7-8 patients each along with a single NA, and a floor secretary. The NA and the secretary cover the whole floor. We do not have a charge nurse, we round with the docs and take off our own orders. Our NM typically is not around and confines her activities to administrative stuff like building the schedule and hollering at her nurses. The hospital has an IV therapy team so we don't have to start or maintain IV's. The IV team hangs and maintains all the chemos and the floor RN's just check them along with the IV team before they are hung. The floor RN's hang all other IV fluids and meds, pass the PO meds, do all dressings. We have an RT team who does all the breathing treatments. We draw our own draws from all central lines, but lab does all the peripheral draws. Most of this is hospital specific and will depend on where you work.

    As you can guess from the number of years I worked in telecommunications, I am old. In that job I made three times the money as opposed to what I make now, and now I work three times as hard. Floor nursing is not for the weak of body and 18 months there took its toll on mine. In my previous career all my peers/superiors were men and I was SHOCKED at the difference between that and having my peers/superiors be women. That is as much a challenge as the physical demands. I once had a preceptor half my age ask me why in the he!! an old woman like me would want to be a nurse. There have been a few times when I've asked that of myself. However, the potential of impacting a life as opposed to impacting shareholder dividends is quite an opportunity.

    If there are things you want to ask, please feel free.
  4. by   RN007
    Thanks for your reply. Since my original post, I've had a few things fall in place. An oncologist friend gave me some advice and told me the best facility for working onc. At the same time, I got an email from that hospital asking if I'd be interested in starting to work as an SNA on their floor. The great thing is, it's 4-hour shifts--perfect while in school and a great way to test-run the unit. I interview next week, so we'll see what it's like. I, too, hope to start working on my master's this fall, with the hopes of becoming an NP or CS and working in a hem/onc office.
  5. by   BJJnurse
    Quote from oldnewnurse
    Hi there,

    Perhaps I can shed some light on this for you. After a 30 year career in telecommunications I went to nursing school and my first job as an ADN-RN was on an oncology floor in a 352 bed hospital with a 16 bed oncology unit. I stayed there for 18 months and then left to work as a hospice RN where I have been for 6 months while still working an occasional PRN shift at the hospital. Can't say I "love" either job, but I like them both very much for totally different reasons. I keep the PRN hospital job because I am working on my MSN and need an inpatient clinical site.

    As an RN on the oncology floor, we typically have 7-8 patients each along with a single NA, and a floor secretary. The NA and the secretary cover the whole floor. We do not have a charge nurse, we round with the docs and take off our own orders. Our NM typically is not around and confines her activities to administrative stuff like building the schedule and hollering at her nurses. The hospital has an IV therapy team so we don't have to start or maintain IV's. The IV team hangs and maintains all the chemos and the floor RN's just check them along with the IV team before they are hung. The floor RN's hang all other IV fluids and meds, pass the PO meds, do all dressings. We have an RT team who does all the breathing treatments. We draw our own draws from all central lines, but lab does all the peripheral draws. Most of this is hospital specific and will depend on where you work.

    As you can guess from the number of years I worked in telecommunications, I am old. In that job I made three times the money as opposed to what I make now, and now I work three times as hard. Floor nursing is not for the weak of body and 18 months there took its toll on mine. In my previous career all my peers/superiors were men and I was SHOCKED at the difference between that and having my peers/superiors be women. That is as much a challenge as the physical demands. I once had a preceptor half my age ask me why in the he!! an old woman like me would want to be a nurse. There have been a few times when I've asked that of myself. However, the potential of impacting a life as opposed to impacting shareholder dividends is quite an opportunity.

    If there are things you want to ask, please feel free.
    do you mind me asking how much you make as a nurse? I mean, you made 3 times more in telecommunications?? nursing is one of the best paid jobs in the country...
  6. by   mvanz9999
    Quote from BJJnurse
    do you mind me asking how much you make as a nurse? I mean, you made 3 times more in telecommunications?? nursing is one of the best paid jobs in the country...
    I don't agree with that at all. Sure, after 20 years and remaining willing to work nights/weekends/holidays and OT, you'd make good money.

    I'm in IT. 12 years experience, and I'll be taking a HUGE pay cut to enter nursing. It's not about the money. There are at least 1,000 jobs that pay better than nursing.....
  7. by   BJJnurse
    Quote from mvanz9999
    I don't agree with that at all. Sure, after 20 years and remaining willing to work nights/weekends/holidays and OT, you'd make good money.

    I'm in IT. 12 years experience, and I'll be taking a HUGE pay cut to enter nursing. It's not about the money. There are at least 1,000 jobs that pay better than nursing.....
    what do you consider "good money?"
  8. by   Chaoticdreams33
    Quote from RN007
    Thanks for your reply. Since my original post, I've had a few things fall in place. An oncologist friend gave me some advice and told me the best facility for working onc. At the same time, I got an email from that hospital asking if I'd be interested in starting to work as an SNA on their floor. The great thing is, it's 4-hour shifts--perfect while in school and a great way to test-run the unit. I interview next week, so we'll see what it's like. I, too, hope to start working on my master's this fall, with the hopes of becoming an NP or CS and working in a hem/onc office.

    That is great! My experience as a SNA has been SO helpful!!! I highly recommend it. Let us know how it goes in your interview, good luck!
  9. by   Lisa CCU RN
    Quote from mvanz9999
    I don't agree with that at all. Sure, after 20 years and remaining willing to work nights/weekends/holidays and OT, you'd make good money.

    I'm in IT. 12 years experience, and I'll be taking a HUGE pay cut to enter nursing. It's not about the money. There are at least 1,000 jobs that pay better than nursing.....
    Yeah, but if you get laid off from one of those jobs, then you are SOL.
    You will hardly never get laid off from nursing and even if you did, there is always somewhere else to go.

    You never lack for a job and you can travel anywhere.
  10. by   plum94
    I dont know
    I feel that you should have a solid backround in medical/surgical nursing to be a good oncology nurse irregardless of subspecialty you want.
  11. by   RN007
    To those of you who replied to my OP, I got the job yesterday in a 34-bed oncology unit as SNA. The people were genuinely nice and another SNA I talked to loves her job. But what closed the deal for me was the huge smile I got from a pt as I walked by her room and made eye contact. So the adventure begins! I hope it all goes well enough for me to simply transition to GN when I graduate in May. Thank you for your support. :kiss
  12. by   Chaoticdreams33
    Congrats!
  13. by   ltcnurse1
    Please keep us updated on your job. I too will graduate in May and have the same questions. I am not a "traditional student" either. I came to this section to do just that read and see what peoples thoughts were on starting directly out of school on the onc floor or to do med surg first.

    The comment on the smile is wonderful. I know what you mean. I guess my biggest passion for working this field is to help perserve life for those that we are able to and for those we can not, to make it as long and meanigful as possible. For the ones who are nearing the end to make it as painless, and comfortable as possible along with providing the emotional support to the family. To still give the patient respect and dignity.

    anyways....good luck with the new position!!!!

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