High turnover in Oncology?

Specialties Oncology



I was wondering if some of you might give me some input. I have just applied to a PRN position on an Oncology Unit, however, I really need a full-time job (there are no openings now, since new grads just got hired, but they do occur on a regular basis). I was just wondering, is it normal for onc units to have a high nurse turnover? If so, what are the reasons?

The reason I'm asking, I'm not worried about the pts or the work because I started on this very same unit as a new grad in 1998. I didn't leave because I wanted to, but the manager at the time was a monster (sorry, no other term sums it up so well, but dictator, bigot and some others fit as well). Yes, I was a new grad, inadequately oriented (3 orientees to one usually absent "preceptor") and overwhelmed by the workload, therefore incurring lots of OT to complete charting; but I was never really given a chance, the manager just forced to me to resign after my "orientation" period without any good explanation. Anyway, I just wanted to say it was never the work itself that I found too hard to take. In fact, I still remember some of my onc pts from way back then; they were very special and I felt like I could really make a difference with them (my difficulties were mostly with tasks, such as programming our complicated PCA pump quickly, and not with the pts).

Anyway, this horrible manager was gone about 2 years after I left, "early retirement" (yeah, right. She hadn't planend to retired for several years.) The new one couldn't be any more different - for instance, the old manager was a bigot (I kid you not - she referred to her 4 black nurses as the "quadruplets" in my presence), the new one is black. I met her during an inservice in the acute dialysis unit in the same hospital where I worked until about a year ago and was very impressed. I thought I would stay in dialysis, but it didn't work out (I never got any PRN hours and finally quit). Now I would really like to give my "first love", oncology, another try.

My only nagging question, which I really don't want to ask in an interview, is why onc has such a high turnover. Of course, they do hire new grads who often leave after their year of med/surg is up. However, could there be another reason? Is it just part of the job, which I'm sure can be very stressful, or might the new manager be horrible too? (I'm just a bit paranoid, aren't I?)

Thanks for any input you can give me, and I hope to be able to join you in this specialty soon.



100 Posts

I havent heard of Oncology being a high turnover rate area for nursing. We actually have a waiting list for out dept and some of our nurses have been in the dept for 20 years. Many Onc RNs consider it a calling to work with cancer patients and wouldnt change depts.


19 Posts

Specializes in Med/Surg. Oncology. GYN..

The Oncology unit I work on had several nurses that have been there over 5 years and many over 10. Although we take care of oncology patients we are designated at Med/Surg so I don't know how staffing is at cancer centers.

Thanks for the responses. I can see that many nurses would want to stay in this specialty, and even have a calling (after all, I'm drawn to it myself).

I was just wondering if this is similar to dialysis nursing, where I spent about 7 years, and also saw many nurses who stayed for decades; however, many others didn't make it through orientation because it just wasn't for them. They say in dialysis, you either love it or hate it, there's nothing in between (and in my experience, and after talking to many colleagues there, that's true).

Could this be true for oncology as well? Many find their calling and plan to retire from there, but some find they just can't do it and leave after a short while? If this is so, I would be reassured; my main fear is that it's not the job, but the manager ;) - based on the horrible experience I had with the previous one (see original post).

The oncology unit I have applied to is a true hemo/onc unit, but they get med/surg overflow pts as well. Because there are several nursing schools, they also get lots of new grads. Maybe that's a reason for the turnover as well.

Again, thanks for any input from oncology nurses!


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