Hello :-) My name is Wendy and I am in my first year of my nursing BSN program. Prior to starting nursing school I worked for 10 years as a licensed Massage Therapist with special certification in Clinical Oncology Massage. I have worked extensively with those with cancer in the hospital setting and I know that this is what I want to specialize in as a nurse. My dream would be to work in a small infusion lab at a cancer center. I'm reading various things on how to get into the specialty after the initial nursing training. I'm seeing some things that say just to get a chemo certification, but you can also get your master's it looks like- so that's a huge disparity in the amount of training needed. Then other things I have read say that the hospital itself will train you, but you have to work on a different unit to get experience first.
I'd love to hear from the veteran Onc Nurses out there. What did you do to specialize in Oncology? What would you have done differently as a student to set yourself up for an effective transition into Oncology after graduating from nursing school?
Your thoughts are very appreciated! Thanks!
May 1, '11
I went straight into oncology after graduation. Like you, I had non-nursing onc experience prior to nursing school, which did help get me the interviews.
Your best bet would be to apply for inpatient oncology floors as a new grad - you'll gain valuable experience there. There are also some hospitals that have nurse residency programs in this area. As an outpatient/infusion room nurse, you'll often be expected to hit the ground running in terms of skills, as well as to have a solid background knowledge of the disease process and treatment. I'm sure there are exceptions, but this has been my experience in academic cancer centers.
Oncology certifications such as chemo and OCN have specific requirements, some of which require experience. Many facilities have additional requirements for chemo cert, generally a sort of practicum where you spend a certain number of hours hanging chemo under supervision. ONS and the ONCC websites have good information on the process.
Some masters degree programs do offer a specialty in adult or peds oncology, but it's not something that would apply entering the field as an RN.
I would encourage you to join ONS for both the educational and networking opportunities - there is a student option for membership.
Best of luck to you!
May 3, '11
Thanks for the tips! I will definitely get that student membership and look into residencies!