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Risks of being Onc nurse

Oncology   (1,681 Views 8 Comments)
by lindsaymRN lindsaymRN (New Member) New Member

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I was recently offered a position on an adult medical oncology floor, and was pretty excited to learn new things and work with oncology patients. My nursing experience has been in Peds ED and float pool for a peds hospital.

I have been trying to get pregnant, and didn't think about the chemo aspect when I applied for the position. Many of my RN friends have advised me against working in oncology altogether due to the fertility risks. I started researching it and have found that even if you're not administering chemo, there are still low levels of exposure to toxic drugs due to contamination of surfaces in the common areas such as nursing station. I just wondered if anyone has any thoughts about this or knows more than I do about risks and current recommendations.

Also wondered how much people enjoy their jobs or if they find if overly busy or emotionally taxing. On this unit nurses can have up to 5 patients, although I think typically nurses have 4. 5 sounds like A LOT to me though, especially for oncology. Any thoughts or insight is appreciated.

Thanks!

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Ruby Vee has 40 years experience as a BSN and specializes in CCU, SICU, CVSICU, Precepting & Teaching.

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I cannot speak to the fertility risks or risk to an unborn child. I loved oncology for my first four years. In my fifth year, I burned out. All of my primary patients died within a two month period and one of those patients was a dear and trusted colleague. I transferred to ICU. Despite that, I wouldn't trade my oncology experience for anything. I learned a lot, because cancer can affect any system of the body. I got good at violating even the most elusive of veins, and bonded with my colleagues over victories such as remissions or losses of favorite patients.

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Swellz has 6 years experience and specializes in oncology, MS/tele/stepdown.

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I went running from oncology after 3.5 years and then went running right back. It is really a special patient population to work with. How busy you are really depends on your assignment - I have run around with three patients and had my feet up with six (ok, overnight, but still!). Oncology patients tend to tank quickly when they tank, so hopefully whoever makes your assignments really spreads out the acuity.

I think this is the link we usually post when this topic comes around: Oncology Nurse Professional Development | ONS Voice

I know there's limitations to the study, but I personally wouldn't administer chemo if I was pregnant or trying to be. But, every place I have ever worked took that into account and changed the assignment accordingly. There's plenty of oncology nursing to be done outside of the days someone is getting chemo.

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I worked for more than 20 years on an inpatient pediatric oncology unit. There are risk factors beyond miscarriage, midterm fetal death and infertility. Three healthcare workers on our unit developed degenerative neurological disorders(MS, early Alz, motor neuron disease). Another oncology nurse in our city at a different facility was diagnosed with ALS. Three oncology RN’s in Wisconsin were diagnosed with MS. Very little research is done in the US on adverse health effects related to exposure. There are no OSHA standards only guidelines. NIOSH is shutting down the database in September of this year. I’ve been trying for 4 years to be documented but my employer does not have a medical surveillance program. Research shows that not only healthcare workers but also family members excrete cyclophosphamide in their urine. It is unrelated to drug handling, the environment is contaminated. My WBC count is 2.5, I have hypocellular bone marrow and a motor neuron disorder. I had 2 miscarriages before I left permanently handicapped. 

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Miss Infermiera2b has 2 years experience as a BSN, RN and specializes in Med/Surg, Oncology.

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To piggyback on this post about the potential fertility issues of being an oncology nurse...does anyone here receive any form of hazard pay? Are you paid extra for having the ONS/Chemo certification? I've never been offered a cent extra for being a chemo nurse and I think it would be nice to be financially compensated for the health risk. 

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My unit is in the process of rolling out pay increases for being chemo certified, making me assume this wasn’t a thing in the past.  I just got my voucher code to begin my online chemo classes so I’m looking forward to the pay bump once I finish.  Don’t know how much it’ll be though.

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On 7/14/2019 at 6:40 AM, Miss Infermiera2b said:

To piggyback on this post about the potential fertility issues of being an oncology nurse...does anyone here receive any form of hazard pay? Are you paid extra for having the ONS/Chemo certification? I've never been offered a cent extra for being a chemo nurse and I think it would be nice to be financially compensated for the health risk. 

I no longer work in heme-onc but the certified nurses at my last place of employment were all paid extra for being certified.

Edited by db2xs
typo

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Swellz has 6 years experience and specializes in oncology, MS/tele/stepdown.

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On 7/14/2019 at 9:40 AM, Miss Infermiera2b said:

To piggyback on this post about the potential fertility issues of being an oncology nurse...does anyone here receive any form of hazard pay? Are you paid extra for having the ONS/Chemo certification? I've never been offered a cent extra for being a chemo nurse and I think it would be nice to be financially compensated for the health risk. 

I've never been paid more for having my chemo cert, but every hospital I've worked at paid a bonus for having your OCN.

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