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oncology vs. cardiac ICU, which job has better outlook?


lets say you don't have a specific passion for any area of nursing. would you choose an oncology job or an cardiac icu job, which has a better job outlook and job options in the future? which would make you more desirable? I know that nursing in general has great outlook, but if you had to chose, which field would you pursue if you had no specific interest in either.

I will surely choose cardiac icu, oncology is too depressing for me.

Larry77, RN

Specializes in Trauma/ED. Has 10 years experience.

Seems like Oncology nurses are oncology to the bone and tend to go to hospice if they go anywhere, but Cardiac ICU or even just telemetry transitions better to other specialties (ie emergency, flight nursing, etc).

Now I know there are oncology nurses that have done other things but I'm just generalizing as the OP asked.

deeDawntee, RN

Specializes in Travel Nursing, ICU, tele, etc. Has 12 years experience.

Given that heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the US and Cancer is not far behind, I can't imagine either job will be phased out anytime soon.

God knows we need both....

agree with dee.

both specialties would offer much diversity and flexibility in terms of growth/expansion.


chachh, BSN, RN

Specializes in Telemetry. Has 5 years experience.

I started on tele for my first job because once you learn rhythms you can go just about anywhere. Another bonus working in a cardiac area is I have also learned about oncology. If a patient comes in with cancer issues but also has a heart issue they are going to tele. I would imagine that would be the same for your cardiac ICU.

So it is my personal opinion that cardiac can open more doors eventually.


Specializes in Med/Surg; Psych; Tele. Has 3 years experience.

I agree with the above posters that cardiac will make you more marketable.

Just wanted to add, however, that I seem to notice a lot of research positions for those with oncology backgrounds if that is something you might be interested in later.

I am a nursing student, will graduate soon, I think I would choose cardiac ICU, I agree with hajiagambo, oncology is too depressing.:o

I am a nursing student' date=' will graduate soon, I think I would choose cardiac ICU, I agree with hajiagambo, oncology is too depressing.:o[/quote']

I disagree.

There aren't many areas of practice where you truly get to know your patients and their families as well as you do in oncology nursing. In a very real sense, you become a big part of their lives; you celebrate their successes and mourn their setbacks. There's a bonding I've not experienced in any other field.

We've had patients and their families come us months and even years after their treatments have ended, just to let us know how they're doing and how much our care meant to them. I've had patients I've cared for actually fly in from out of state just to visit and say "thanks". One of our most memorable visits was from a young woman we'd treated over 10 years ago for acute leukemia; she flew in from the west coast to catch us up on her life now--- as an oncologist.

As much as I have given to my patients, it pales in comparison to what they've given me over the years. I'm in awe of them. Watching them go through hell and back to beat their disease is a lesson in courage; don't kid yourself; these people are critically ill--- as sick as anyone you will see in an ICU. You have to keep one step ahead of the game, ready to move quickly when an emergency arises. And it will. But don't think that just because they have a diagnosis of cancer that the rest of their lives aren't filled with the stresses and worries we all face. And just because they have a diagnosis of cancer doesn't mean they can't have other serious health and emotional issues.

I pray that if I am ever in their position, I have a fraction of their courage and resolve. They've taught me what's really important in this life and what are merely irritants.

Someone above said oncology nurses are oncology to the bone. That's true. I've worked other areas, but I never feel 'complete' in my job unless I'm working with heme/onc patients. I always come back.

Yes, I'm saddened if they die. But we all do die. When I've helped someone get through the most difficult time of their life, then I know I've made a difference, regardless of the outcome of their diagnosis. Selfish I know, but it's a great feeling and (to me at least) what makes this more than just a mere job.

Yes, it can be sad. It's stressful as hell. But it's not depressing.

Ruby Vee, BSN

Specializes in CCU, SICU, CVSICU, Precepting & Teaching. Has 40 years experience.

by "cardiac" do you mean cardiac surgery or ccu? because unlike oncology, i see cardiac surgery being cut back in the future as we do more and more minimally invasive surgeries. stents are replacing cabgs, and ptcas are lasting longer. you're right -- heart disease and cancer are two of the number one killers -- and cardiology medicine is still going strong. interventional cardiology may continue to grow, but i don't see cardiac surgery as growing as much.

oncology is fascinating -- cancer can strike any organ system and any part of the body. it's always a challenge to keep up with the newest treatments and the various complications that cancer and its treatment involve.

another consideration -- and one that is purely anecdotal -- is that the nicest people seem to develop cancer. i loved my oncology patients! it seems like there are more jerks than nice folks getting cardiac disease. (or maybe i'm just getting cranky in my old age.)

choose whatever speaks to you -- whether it be fascination with the disease process, infatuation with the potential job and it's people and perks or something else entirely. you can always change your mind and change your specialty.

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