Summary: Oncology Nurses are nurses who specialize in the support and care for patients diagnosed with cancer. They approach patients with empathy and care, administer chemotherapy treatments, educate patients about their diseases; and manage illness and cancer-related symptoms. They not only act as nurses, but also as a caregiver, educator, consultant, administrator, and researcher.
Duties: An Oncology Nurse must be able to assess their patient’s physical and emotional conditions, medical history, health habits, and practices. He/she also completes a detailed history and conduct a physical examination of the patient. When the oncologist is not around, an oncology nurse is informed of all relevant results of laboratory, pathology, and imaging tests. He/she also builds a bond with a patient, helps patients cope with their condition effectively; provides information about the disease in a manner the patient would understand, assists the patient in acquiring the knowledge and skills to regain and maintain health, motivates the patient into having the right attitude towards treatment, provides direct care, participates in therapy sessions, provides counseling and educates the patient’s family.
Education and Training Requirements: To be an Oncology Nurse, one must be Registered Nurse with at least an Associate degree, although a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing is often preferred. They must also be certified with the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC). The ONCC grants certification for 4 years, and has several certification options ranging from Basic to Advanced and these vary depending on a nurse’s level of training and education. To have an advanced certification, it is required to have at least a master’s degree in nursing and a minimum of 500 hours of supervised clinical practice in oncology nursing.
Knowledge and Skills Requirements: Aside from the skills required as a nurse, Oncology nurses must be able to deal with death and suffering; has a good outlook in life; can handle excessive paperwork; can keep themselves updated with new treatment methods; has strong support skills and people skills; is patient, nurturing, and emotionally stable; and ensures both the patient and family is comfortable with the treatment.
Working Conditions: Oncology nurses may find work in specialty hospitals, medical offices, ambulatory care centers, and homes of clients who prefer to be treated at home. Since they are mostly dealing with high-risk patients, they are expected to be on call 24 hours a day. Those working in a hospital setting work in shifts which often extend to 12 hours. Work may also include some travel and lifting.
Salary: The median salary of Oncology nurses were reported to be at $57,000. This varies greatly due to the nature of employment, location, industry, experience, and benefits. Benefits received may include medical, dental, vision coverage; travel allowances; 401(k) retirement plan; and paid sick and vacation leaves.