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Oncology Nurse: Education and Career Information

If you are interested in the care and treatment of cancer patients, you may want to consider a career as an oncology nurse. They work with the critically ill in monitoring patient conditions, prescribing medication and formulating strategies to deal with symptoms. These nurses are very patient and compassionate, and deal with pain and death on a continuous basis.

What does an Oncology Nurse do?

An oncology nurse is known as a healer and a helper. They work in a very challenging environment, dealing with critically ill patients who have cancer, from pediatrics to adults. They perform a number of duties, including coordinating cancer treatment, reviewing health histories, assessing both the physical and emotional status of the patients, keeping track of lab, pathology and imaging studies, administering medications and treatments, collaborate with doctors on a treatment plan, provides education on what the patient is experiencing and may go through, communicates with doctors on behalf of the patient, and answers any questions the patient or family may have. You will find them working in a number of settings including hospitals, outpatient clinics, private offices, long-term care facilities and other areas. They are highly specialized nurses and can work in surgical oncology, radiation oncology and medical oncology.

How much does an Oncology Nurse earn?

This is a specialty career where you can make a lucrative salary. On average, an oncology nurse makes around $80,000, but can make well over $120,000 annually depending on the level of experience, education and areas in where they work. Depending on how many specializations they have, they can make a significant amount of money per year. The more specialties they have, in addition to experience, the more they make. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for oncology nurses is expected to significantly increase over the next ten years.

What skills are needed to be successful as an Oncology Nurse?

There are a number of skills needed to be successful in this area:

Communication: Communication is key, with both patients, families and healthcare professionals. They must be able to understand what the patient is saying, and get that information to the treating physician. They must also be able to explain any procedures and treatments to patients.

Research: The nurse must be able to research the different treatment plans that are recommended in order to be effective in explaining different things to patients and their families. Additionally, this research will help them develop a deeper understanding of what their patients may be going through.

Technology: This position uses a variety of high-tech equipment. The nurse must be well-informed and adjusted to using these machines and instruments to conduct the proper assessment and treatment procedures. As education and treatment for cancer patients continues to get better, the nurse must be able to understand how this equipment works to assist the patient.

Management: The nurse must be able to juggle a number of things at one time, including their administrative work. Effectively maintaining patient records, and being able to work well with and manage others is key. They must be highly organized and able to meet the needs of the patient and healthcare professionals. Cancer patients have a number of things going on at one time, from treatment plans, to different medications. The nurse must be able to juggle everything for each patient while maintaining a high level of productivity.

Compassion: The nurse must be sensitive to the needs of the patient and their families. Operating in a caring and patient manner is a must. Dealing with the ramifications of cancer is very challenging. There will be times when the patient may not make it. The nurse must be able to keep a calm manner, assisting those patients and their families throughout the entire process. This takes skill and a high level of sensitivity.

Patience: One of the main things a nurse must possess is patience. They deal with a number of healthcare professionals, patients and their families. Things may become very stressful at times, and they must be able to handle each situation with poise and grace. It can be difficult to process when a medication is not working, and seeing patients in pain is no laughing matter. The nurse must be able to deal with a high degree of patience in order to be successful.

Internship Requirements

Clinical practice is mandatory for any nursing program, but in order to become an oncology nurse specialist, extended internship requirements in cancer care skills are required. This varies depending on the type of program the student is in. For the advanced specialization, the nurse must complete at least 500 hours at a minimum, including on-the-job experience.

Education Requirements

A career as an oncology nurse starts with becoming an RN. While many nursing careers can begin with an associate’s degree or diploma, obtaining the RN license from a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree is highly recommended. There are a number of requirements, including specific knowledge and coursework in anatomy, oncology, and biology. Once the four-year degree has been obtained, the student must sit for and pass the NCLEX-RN exam.

Once the nurse has obtained the license, they must practice in an oncology department in order to qualify to take the exam to become an Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN). Once this has been completed, most nurses go on to become an oncology nurse practitioner, which requires a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. This is an additional 2 years of study. Once this has been completed, in addition to 500 hours of supervised clinical practice in oncology, the nurse can sit for the Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner exam.

These specializations require continuous education credits, as there are several certification options. This can be a rewarding career for someone who is concerned with the care of cancer patients, helping them deal with their situation as best they can. Although a challenging career which can be very emotional at times, there is a great reward in knowing they have helped a patient and family during this tough time. Financially, it is a rewarding career.

Nursing Scholarships

American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN) American Cancer Society Doctoral Degree Scholarships in Cancer Nursing Gallagher Student Health Careers Scholarship
The Gates Millenium Scholars (GMS) National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA)
New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) Nurse Corps Scholarship (NCS) Nurses of Tomorrow
Nursing Economics Foundation Tylenol Future Care Scholarship American Holistic Nurses Association
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