What is the most challenging part about working in Oncology?

Specialties Oncology


What is the most challenging part of working in Oncology Nursing? I will be attending NS soon and I hope to one day work in this area.


Well, I haven't worked in oncology myself but used to be friends with an oncologist (MD) (my housemate was dating him while I was in nursing school). From my experience with him, I'd say that one of the toughest things has to be knowing that, no matter what you do, no matter how well you do your job, most of your clients are going to die. He would periodically get pretty depressed when a bunch of people died in quick succession, and seemed pretty gloomy in general related to his general frustration that he had so little to offer people (compared to what other specialties had to offer and what he wished he could do for his clients).

Specializes in Oncology; medical specialty website.

You really get fond of certain patients, and when you see them start to deteriorate, it's really hard, esp. when the decision is made that they are going to pursue hospice. On the one hand, I feel relieved for them, because I know how much hospice will do for them, but on the other, I know it means the next time I see them will be in the obit. column.

Some of it does balance out with patients who do well with treatment and come back to say hello.

Trying to meet all of the complex medical and emotional needs these patients and families have while working shorthanded can be really frustrating.

Specializes in Inpatient Adult Oncology.

I find that it can be difficult, as it has been said and will be said to you time and time again, to become so attached to so many people who don't make it...I know that is what makes it difficult for a lot of my coworkers and friends. I think to become and Oncology nurse you need to be very passionate, it takes a lot to be a true Oncology nurse. I know some nurses who get into the field in hopes of just being able to get into outpatient so they can work Monday through Friday and have weekends and holidays off...it's not the right reason to do it...because the only thing that will make the patients feel your possitive energy, is if you have the possitive energy to start with...and the only way you will be able to make it through the heart break...is if you are there for a bigger purpose than yourself.

I am fortunate, I have been working in Oncology since I started nursing, it was all I ever wanted to do...and I love my job. I hope that if you go into the field, you will find that the wonderful parts of the job, and the incredible people you meet...will show you so much more happiness than the sorrow you feel with the loss of certain people...

Instead of asking what the most challenging part is...you should ask what the most wonderful part about working in Oncology is. For me, it is knowing that I am helping these people, even in a small way...and for me...it's having the opportunity to have my patients be a part of my life...:redbeathe

Good luck, and I hope you make the best choice for you.

For me, the hardest part of oncology nursing where I am at now, is trying to deal with a physician who is not giving patients the true idenity of the extent of their disease. To work in oncology you have to be compassionate, but also reveal the truth no matter how difficult or extensive the disease. Be prepared to come into contact with physicians who do not want to give up or give the bad news. I am currently working with a physician who has given TPN on a patient's deathbed, given chemotherapy for stage 4 pancreatic cancer on a patient who has a bili that is off the charts and is septic and probably won't make it through the week. All I am saying is be prepared to be compassionate yet tough and stand for your patients when they can't.


I have an interview with the manager of an inpatient oncology unit at a local hospital where i live. Any ideas what she might ask me. I do care very deeply and I want to make a difference in the life of others. also lost 3 grandparents to cancer and understand some of the suffering/ fear and challenges. interivew is monday morning, any ideas please?


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