Oncology Nursing

Oncology nursing has very often been associated with hospice or death and dying. However, with all of the new advances in the care of the cancer patient, life is more often the prognosis. This is an article about general oncology nursing. There are many other subspecialties. Specialties Oncology Article


Oncology Nursing

Oncology nursing is the overall general care of the patient diagnosed with cancer, care for those who choose treatment, and the support of the patient who is in remission. Cancer is no longer the death sentence that it once was. With new discoveries and an abundant amount of research being conducted every day, cancer is becoming curable.

Most Common Types of Cancer in the U.S.*

  1. Bladder Cancer
  2. Breast Cancer
  3. Colon and Rectal Cancer
  4. Endometrial Cancer
  5. Kidney (Renal Cell) Cancer
  6. Leukemia
  7. Lung Cancer
  8. Melanoma
  9. Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma
  10. Pancreatic Cancer
  11. Prostate Cancer
  12. Thyroid Cancer

*List courtesy of the National Cancer Institute

Work Environment

  • Hospitals, caring for acutely ill or newly diagnosed patients
  • Outpatient clinics - patient continuum
  • Chemotherapeutic units - inpatients or outpatients especially those receiving chemotherapy
  • Home care patient continuum
    • wound care and patient education
    • education for patient family members
    • intravenous infusion (IV) therapy
    • non-specific other daily care
  • Radiation therapy
  • Nurse Educator - educating patients, families, nurse colleagues
  • Nurse Navigator
    • assists the patient and family through the maze of healthcare once diagnosed with cancer
    • this type of nurse might see a patient in the clinic, hospital, nursing home, private home or they may provide phone support

Qualities and Skills

  • Understanding of anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology as numerous body systems may be affected
  • Ability to stay up-to-date with care standards and their frequent changes
  • Compassionate, empathetic, ensure patient dignity
  • Experience and ability to interpret complex medical terms and translate them into easily understandable terms for patients and their families
  • Willingness to provide education to patients, families and staff
  • Possess quick assessment and intervention skills as they relate to physical and psychosocial needs as well as spiritual needs
  • Strong patient advocate


  • Graduate from accredited Practical Nursing (PN) or Registered Nursing (RN) program
    • LPN: Receive a PN Certificate, diploma, or degree
    • RN: Receive an Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or higher
  • Successfully pass the PN-NCLEX or the RN-NCLEX
  • Current, unencumbered LPN or RN license in the state of practice
  • Additional courses, experience, and/or certifications may be required

Certifications and Certificates

The Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC®) provides several types of certifications and re-certifications:

  • 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®){renewal only}
  • Certified Pediatric Oncology Nurse (CPON®) {renewal only}
  • Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse (AOCN®) {renewal only}

Eligibility for the Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN®) Certification (not all-inclusive)

  • Current, unencumbered license as an RN in the U.S., its territories or Canada
  • Minimum 2 years (24 months) RN experience
  • Minimum 2,000 hours of adult oncology RN nursing practice* within the 4 years prior to application
  • Minimum 10 contact hours of nursing continuing education in oncology or an academic elective in oncology nursing within the 3 years prior to application
    • Contact hours must be from formally approved accredited provider or approver of continuing nursing education (CNE) or nursing continuing professional development (NCPD)
    • Maximum of 5 of the 10 required contact hours in oncology may be continuing medical education (CME) in oncology

*Practice areas include: clinical practice, nursing administration, education, research, consultation as an RN only

The Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) offers the ONS/ONCC Chemotherapy Immunotherapy Certificate Course.

Eligibility (not all-inclusive)

  • Applicant is an RN and has been administering chemotherapy and/or immunotherapy for more than one year.


  • Applicant is an RN and administers chemotherapy and/or immunotherapy often, at least once a month

Salary (2020)

According to salary.com, the average annual RN Oncology salary in the U.S. is $76,583 with the range typically falling between $68,440 and $85,594.

According to ZipRecruiter, the pay for an Oncology Nurse in the U.S. is $87,340 a year with annual salaries as high as $138,500.

Future of Cancer Nursing

Research is ongoing for a number of cancers and many agencies are involved. Though many cancers are now curable, research continues into those where a cure remains to be discovered. The oncology nurse can be at the forefront of cancer research by collecting data, analyzing plans, and conducting research.


Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure

American Cancer Society

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I'd also like to add the following resource for my Canadian Oncology Nursing colleagues:

CANO-ACIO: Home (Website for Canadian Association of Nurses in Oncology - Association Canadienne des Infirmieres en Oncologie)