Why You Should Pursue a Career in Oncology Nursing

Oncology is often seen as a demanding and emotionally taxing specialty to pursue, but it can be incredibly rewarding and lay the foundation for an endless amount of career opportunities in the future. Specialties Oncology Knowledge

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Why You Should Pursue a Career in Oncology Nursing

What is an Oncology Nurse?

Oncology nurses provide care and treatment for patients suffering from various cancer and hematology disorders. These treatments can take place in the inpatient setting of an oncology unit or outpatient in cancer centers, oncology clinics, and outpatient infusion suites. Oncology nurses perform patient assessments, patient education, and administer medications and treatments to patients going through cancer treatment.

The oncology nurse is generally an associate or bachelor's degree-prepared nurse who has passed the NCLEX exam and become a Registered Nurse. Many oncology nurses also become certified to safely and adequately administer chemotherapy and often become certified in their specialty after they have worked several years in their career.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Pursuing a Career in Oncology

Being an oncology nurse can be incredibly rewarding. You have the opportunity to support patients and families going through an incredibly stressful life event. Oncology nurses are often highly respected and trusted by their patients and colleagues. As an oncology nurse, you are also one of the first to obtain information on new treatment approaches in the expanding world of oncology. An oncology career also has numerous roles available for Registered Nurses and many opportunities for growth and career development.

Working in Oncology can also be very emotionally taxing. The oncology nurse needs to exhibit patience, empathy, and the ability to prioritize work/life balance and self-care. Oncology nurses are also at high risk for burnout due to the stress of caring for patients with poor prognoses.

What Types of Career Advancement Opportunities are Available to the Oncology Nurse?

Advanced opportunities in oncology will greatly depend on experience and education.

Oncology Nurse Practitioners

Oncology Nurse Practitioners work alongside Medical Doctors and Surgeons to help screen, diagnose, and treat patients with cancer. The oncology nurse practitioner must complete an advanced degree, such as a master of science in nursing, and pass the certification exam to become a certified Nurse Practitioner. The Nurse Practitioner must then pass the Advanced Oncology Nurse Practitioner exam to become an Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner (AOCNP).

Oncology Nurse Educators

Oncology Nurse Educators work in multiple capacities, including helping with hospital onboarding and orientation for oncology nurses, teaching university-level curriculum regarding oncology, or working alongside pharmaceutical or medical device companies to provide education on new products. Oncology nurse educators often have obtained a master of science in nursing degree, though it is not always required.

Oncology Research Nurses

Oncology research nurses help coordinate clinical trials and protocols for new oncology treatments.

Oncology Nurse Navigators

Oncology nurse navigators are responsible for care coordination, education, and support to oncology patients navigating the complicated healthcare system.

Oncology Case Managers

Oncology case managers assess, identify, and connect patients with resources needed to successfully complete treatment.

Becoming Oncology Certified

There are also opportunities to show your oncology expertise without changing job roles or pursuing an advanced degree. There are multiple certifications available within the oncology nursing specialty, and is dependent on what type of oncology patients your workplace typically treats.

Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN)

Requires experience providing care for adult oncology patients such as breast or colon cancer.

Certified Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Nurse (CPHON)

Requires experience providing care for pediatric hematology or pediatric oncology patients, such as leukemia or other childhood cancers.

Certified Breast Care Nurse (CBCN)

Requires experience providing breast nursing care, often for nurses working in a breast care center.

Blood and Marrow Transplant Certified Nurse (BMTCN)

Requires experience providing bone marrow transplant care for patients receiving transplants for hematology cancers and disorders such as leukemia or sickle cell disease.

Oncology nursing is not the best fit for every nurse. Oncology nursing requires a special type of compassion and resilience, but the advantages often outweigh the hardships, and oncology nursing can open up a world of opportunities for those interested.

Mercedes Basey-Scott MSN, MBA, RN, OCN earned her BSN from Stephen F. Austin State University in 2014 and earned her MSN and MBA from The University of Texas at Tyler in 2019. Mercedes has 8+ years of experience in oncology nursing.

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