Steps to become an Oncology Nurse

Posted
by E.Renez (New) New

Hello!

I am currently in nursing school considering a career path as an oncology nurse. What steps would I need to take and what certifications would I need in order to be in this specialty area? Online resources have not been consistent. Thanks so much in advance!

:-)

Littleguccipiggy

Specializes in Oncology. Has 2 years experience. 125 Posts

Its pretty much the same as any unit. Get hired into an oncology unit, gain experiences, get you ONS chemotherapy & biotherapy card, and if you really want to, become an OCN.

E.Renez

11 Posts

Thank you for your helpful response. For some reason, I was thinking all of the oncology nurses needed some sort of certification. Is acquiring the chemotherapy and bio-therapy card a pre-requisite to becoming an OCN, allowing you the responsibility to administer chemo?

Littleguccipiggy

Specializes in Oncology. Has 2 years experience. 125 Posts

It will depend on your hospital's policy on when new grads will be able to hang chemo. It seems that its typically about six months. When your hospital feels that you are ready, they'll have you take the ONS chemotherapy class. Then you can hang chemo. The requirements for the OCN are listed on the ONCC website, but you need at least a year of experience before you can site for the test.

E.Renez

11 Posts

Great! That was just the site I needed to see the requirements. It appears that an OCN would have more of a specialized practice and more autonomy. Is that correct? I guess now I am confused what the difference is between the level of practice between a nurse who has taken an ONS chemotherapy class and an OCN.

CarryThatWeight, BSN

Specializes in Oncology. Has 13 years experience. 290 Posts

There really isn't a difference in practice between a regular RN and an RN who has the OCN certification. The OCN looks good to employers and may get you a raise, but it's really more of a status thing. As someone said, you would not be eligible to even sit for that exam until you've worked in oncology for a year. What you need to do is get hired onto an oncology unit. Your hospital will pay for your chemo bio certification because most places require it to hang chemo. So really, you don't need to do anything now but sell yourself in interviews and get that job!

E.Renez

11 Posts

There really isn't a difference in practice between a regular RN and an RN who has the OCN certification. The OCN looks good to employers and may get you a raise, but it's really more of a status thing. As someone said, you would not be eligible to even sit for that exam until you've worked in oncology for a year. What you need to do is get hired onto an oncology unit. Your hospital will pay for your chemo bio certification because most places require it to hang chemo. So really, you don't need to do anything now but sell yourself in interviews and get that job!

Really? That is interesting there's not really a difference. Thank you so much for this information. I will do my best to get the job! :-)

Littleguccipiggy

Specializes in Oncology. Has 2 years experience. 125 Posts

OCN is mostly for status, since its a requirement for Magnet to have a certain percentage of specialized nurses, hospitals are pushing for all of their nurses to get certified. Its the same as ADN vs BSN, you have the autonomy, just a different title. Some hospitals have incentives to encourage nurses to get their OCN.

OCNRN63, RN

Specializes in Oncology; medical specialty website. 5,978 Posts

Thank you for your helpful response. For some reason, I was thinking all of the oncology nurses needed some sort of certification. Is acquiring the chemotherapy and bio-therapy card a pre-requisite to becoming an OCN, allowing you the responsibility to administer chemo?

I would wait until you actually get a job in oncology before you attempt your chemotherapy/biotherapy provider card. For one thing, until you're working with those drugs, the information won't make any sense. Second, not all oncology units use that program; some have their own method of verifying competence with chemo.

You're going to need a good year before you can take the exam for OCN. There's a pre-req for number of hours you have to have, as well a number of years as an RN.

Just give yourself time to learn, if oncology is where your heart is. There will be plenty of time down the road for certification. You need to get the basics down first; kind of like how you need to learn how to walk before you learn how to run.

Edited by OCNRN63

Angelicamarie

Specializes in Oncology. 12 Posts

Get a job on an oncology unit, the certifications will come later. At my place of employment I am able to become chemo certified after 6mo-1year on my unit.