OCN certification...does it really make a difference?

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    I've worked on a medical-oncology floor for 2 years. I'm chemo certified by ONS (I don't get pain any extra for this). I was thinking about getting my OCN certification, because I want to start traveling soon. For those of you who already have it, do you benefit in any way by having the national certification? Or is this just something you do to make yourself feel good about another accomplishment? For those of you who are certified, I hope I'm not putting you down in any way (I think it's great to be better educated in your field). I just don't want to put myself through the stress of taking the test if it's not going to benefit my career. Thanks in advance for your input!
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  3. 16 Comments so far...

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    I work in a out pt cancer center. I 've been there for 1 1/2 years. Im working on getting my ONC in the next year. I think it would be hard to take the test out of the med surg setting. I know to get chemo infusion certifided, you have to work for 6 months in that area.
    It is nice to say that your oncology nurses are ONC certified. As far as experiece though passing a test might not say much. We have a nurse that came from the Hillman cancer center in Pittsburg Pa, and she's never been certified. She said they never required it. She work there for around 10 years.
    I guess if Oncology is where you want to be, it would be worth it. But if you plan on working in other areas of nursing too, I probably wouln't bother.
    Once your certified, you have to have so many hours in education to keep it or take the test again. The good thing though Ive been told that the exam is alot of general nursing questions.
    I hope this helps....ME
    jenhasredhair likes this.
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    Certifications in general help you in the future. I just became OCN certified (2 days ago, in fact), but even if I leave Oncology, I believe it will help me. It shows that I am dedicated to more than the minimum. It shows determination to learn more about what your patients are going through and how you can help them manage their lives. It is more than just "[a lot] of general nursing questions." There are detailed and specific disease and symptom management, as well as varied treatments and other dimensions.

    I have never worked med-surg oncology. Actually, I have never worked med-surg, period. I don't think med-surg is all it's cracked up to be. I'm sure you learn a lot, but ICU and ambulatory chemo administration have taught me an invaluable amount of information. I think that the test, coupled with experience is extremely important. You have have seasoned nurses who have worked for years, but certification says that they meet a standard higher than the basic knowledge needed for state boards and then meeting performance reviews. Certification shows that the RN taking care of you knows about multiple facets of the speciality, in this case oncology, instead of just knowing about your area. If you don't want to "put [your]self through the stress of taking the test if it's not going to benefit my career," then don't take it. You need to do it for yourself and your patients.

    We as nurses should strive for the highest levels for ourselves so that we may bring our patients with us. Their success is our success.
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    As a new grad, I won't be able to get OCN certification for at least year, but I plan on going for it as soon as possible. In my area, OCN certification is a requirement (at least on paper -- I'm sure some are grandfathered in) for many nursing jobs -- not just management -- at the two NCI-designated cancer centers. That's where I want to work, so it's an obvious choice. However, I also hope to do it for its own sake -- that is, because I love expanding my knowledge and skills, and this certification will (hopefully) be a mark of an acheivment.

    Good luck what ever you decide!
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    Sure it does! It shows on a professional and official level you are dedicated Onc RN. And believe it or not, nowadays most of the hospitals and clinics I have both worked for and applied to expect OCN Certification as a requirement for hire...plus it makes you so much more competitive...at least on paper!
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    I have a question that may have a ridiculously obvious answer, but I'm still a student so many things obvious to RNs are still a mystery to me...Anyways, my question is if OCN is required by most oncology units to get hired, how does anyone who hasn't already worked on an oncology unit get a job? I'm asking because I'm very interested in this specialty, and it seemed from an earlier post that experience is required for certification (i.e. even if you were able to pass the test without experience, you still couldn't be certified). Thanks for any clarification/information you provide!
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    Well you gotta get lucky I guess nowadays for hospitals to want to train you. Some hospitals do not hire new grads for their ONC units, but require some med/surg or other experience as a requirement. Its a steep lerning curve for a new grad to become a solid nurse, on top of that you work in a specialty area. Some hospitals want not med/surg but specifically Hem-Onc experience. Training means putting money into you, and if they save a buck they will. Other hospitals, typicaly more prestigious ones want all their nurses OCN certified. There are some clinics out there that will train, some hospitals as well, you just have to look. But the OCN certification -that is your choice. I got certified by the military, however that cert is not recognized anywhere else, so I figured might as well get it on my own and be more competitive.

    -Eligibility Criteria for Initial OCNŽ Certification

    Current, active, unrestricted RN license at the time of application and examination, and
    A minimum of one year (12 months) experience as an RN within the three years (36 months) prior to application, and
    A minimum of 1,000 hours of oncology nursing practice within the two-and-one-half years (30 months) prior to application, and
    Completion of 10 contact hours of accredited continuing education in oncology nursing or an academic elective in oncology within the past three years. A maximum of 50% or 5 hours may be Continuing Medical Education. - taken off the OCN webpage

    My advice..even if you dont get hired for ONC floor immediately, offer to float...that way the staff on the ONC floor wil get to know you, let them know you are interested and once the opening comes up, ask for transfer. But I hope you get to work in your area right away! Best of luck
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    Certification is not required to get into oncology. As the previous poster listed, there are criteria that you have to meet to become certified. SOME hospitals encourage certification, whereas others (even the prestigious ones) see it as a "nice to have." Being certified (in any field) will open many opportunities to you in that field as well as outside ones. The way I see it, if I leave oncology, my OCN will tell prospective employers that I am dedicated to learning more than just the minimum.

    To get your foot in the door, you many have to settle on a less desirable unit until a position opens, but at least you are in that hospital or system. Best of luck!
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    On our floor you cant become a RN 3 without certification. Also, it will be much easier to get onoclogy job with the certification....especially if you are going to be traveling. Just study the books and you will be fine. Many of the nurses I work with in oncology medsurg have taken it and have totally passed...with no problem!!
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    Many Oncology units will hire new graduates. From there it depends if you will have to wait six months or a year to be certified to hang chemotherapy. The OCN is a national certification you can begin around the one year mark (1, 000 hours of nursing). I work in Med/Surg Oncology and love it. If you have an interest in Oncology then look into it. Most places will be happy to develop the personality drawn to this specialty. All the best.


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