How to Become an Oncology Nurse

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Oncology is a medical discipline that focuses on providing care to patients with many different forms of cancer. Oncology nurses are registered nurses that provide care to many different patients with various types of cancer.

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What does an oncology nurse do?

Oncology nurses provide care to patients of all ages with cancerous conditions. They perform cancer screenings, discuss treatment options with patients, assist physicians with treatment, and provide educational information to patients and the public. They also provide emotional support and counseling to patients and families. Oncology nurses often provide chemotherapy and radiation treatments and monitor patients throughout treatment. They help keep patients as comfortable as possible and administer medications and perform other pain relieving methods. They obtain medical histories, monitor vital signs, record the effects of treatment, and help patients with activities of daily living such as bathing and eating.

What kind of training does an oncology nurse need?

Oncology nurses typically need at least a bachelor degree in nursing. Prospective oncology nurses build a solid foundation of cancer care skills through classroom instruction and clinical practice. All registered nurses must be licensed. Licensing requirements include completion of an approved nursing program and passing a written examination. Many oncology nurses also gain the Oncology Certified Nurse designation from the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation. Some oncology nurses specialize in a specific area such as pediatric oncology, bone marrow transplants, and palliative care. Oncology nurses must complete continuing education to maintain their licenses and certifications, keep their skills current, and stay up to date on new advancements in the field.

What are the prospects for a career as an oncology nurse?

Employment of all registered nurses is expected to grow much faster than average for all professions, increasing 23% from 2006 to 2016 (1). The growing and aging population and increased prevalence of many types of cancer will drive job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be excellent especially for oncology nurses with extensive experience. Many job openings will arise from the need to replace oncology nurses that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do oncology nurses make?

As of December 2009, the middle 50% of oncology nurses earn annual salaries between $56,465 and $68,840. The top 10% earn annual salaries of more than $74,848 (2).

A career as an oncology nurse is a great choice for individuals with a strong interest in oncology and providing care to patients with many different types of cancer. Oncology nurses must have a solid knowledge of a variety of forms of cancer and treatment options. They must be emotionally stable and be able to handle stressful and sometimes unfavorable situations. Patience, determination, critical thinking, and good problem solving are desirable characteristics. Oncology nurses must have excellent bedside manner and the ability to help patients feel at ease. They must have great communication and the ability to provide comfort to patients and families.

Joshua T Osborne

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