What Does an Oncology Nurse Do?
An oncology nurse provides care for patients who either have cancer or are at risk of developing it. For cancer patients who are critically and chronically ill, these types of nurses monitor their physical conditions and symptoms, create management strategies and prescribe medication, and administer treatments such as chemotherapy. For patients at risk of developing cancer, they provide counseling services in cancer prevention, screening and detection. Advanced practice oncology nurses not only serve patients as caregivers but educators, consultants and researchers. To provide their patients with the best care possible, they consult and collaborate with other health care providers about heath care plans and treatments. Oncology nurses strive to educate their patients by providing them with the most relevant and current information about their conditions. As researchers, they identify and examine problems in order to improve cancer treatments through significant findings.
How Can I Become an Oncology Nurse?
If you are interested in a career as an oncology nurse, you must first earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become licensed to practice. To practice basic oncology nursing, you will have to acquire extensive knowledge of this disease and learn skills specifically related to cancer care through coursework, clinical practice or continuing education courses. To be qualified to practice at an advanced level, you must continue your education at a higher level by earning a master’s degree or doctorate in nursing. It is important to choose a graduate program that will further your theoretical knowledge in oncology and help you develop skills related to advanced cancer care. Nurses who want to demonstrate their expertise in the field of oncology can become certified through an organization like the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation. The certification process involves passing an exam that assesses an individual’s knowledge of topics such as disease prevention, research, symptoms and treatments.
What Is the Career and Salary Outlook for an Oncology Nurse?
Cancer is a disease that is not going away, and the need for nurses specializing in oncology is increasing due to a growing elderly population. The broad field of oncology is diverse and ranges from cancer prevention to cancer recovery. Because of this, many oncology nurses choose to focus on specific areas like breast oncology, GYN oncology, prevention and early detection, palliative care, chemotherapy, bone marrow transplant, symptom management, and cancer genetic counseling. Oncology nurses are employed at variety of care delivery environments like community hospitals, hospital systems, inpatient or outpatient clinics and national cancer institutes. They work in the areas of public health, home health care, hospice, community nursing and even the pharmaceutical industry. Depending on their education and experience, oncology nurses can work in positions as oncology nurse practitioners, pediatric oncology nurses, clinical oncology nurses, surgical oncology nurses, and oncology nurse supervisors. The salary outlook for these specialized nurses depends on rank of position, as well as the type, size and location of employer. According to PayScale, nurses working in oncology earn from $52,299 to $74,205 annually.