Before we go any further in knowing how to become an oncology nurse, it will be important to establish what Oncology is about.
Oncology is the study of cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Now we know what oncology means, let’s dive further and explain who an oncology nurse is.
An oncology nurse provides care to cancer patients or those with the likelihood of developing it. Oncology nurses conduct necessary assessments, administer treatments, and communicate with all patient care providers in order to develop a plan that is specific to each patient’s needs.
Oncology Nurses form strong and lasting relationships with their patients and their families as a result of their constant one-on-one time with them.
Furthermore, Oncology Nurses help cancer patients and their loved ones by answering pressing questions, providing emotional support, and addressing symptoms.
These relationships are critical in developing a comprehensive treatment plan that goes beyond addressing cancer itself.
Oncology nurses understand what their patients require mentally and emotionally in preparation to confront their diagnosis head-on and provide a pillar of stability for them to lean on when the physical and emotional stresses of cancer treatment start to wear them down.
What is the duty of an Oncology Nurse?
Oncology nurses have a wide range of daily responsibilities, from clinical care to emotional support and companionship.
A potentially terminal diagnosis can be extremely isolating for patients, so Oncology Nurses must keep this in mind as they go about their daily tasks. These tasks differ depending on where the nurse works and what they specialize in, and they present the nurse and their patients with unique technical and emotional challenges.
As the primary professional point of contact for their patients and their families, the nurse will advise and teach them about the symptoms they may experience during treatment, provide techniques for managing symptoms or pain, and communicate their treatment plans in a clear and understandable manner.
It’s critical, to be honest with the patients during these educational moments without sounding clinical or detached from their experience.
The nurses should be compassionate, direct, and do their best to be a pillar of confidence in the midst of an extremely difficult and uncertain time for these people and their loved ones. As a care provider who interacts with patients on a clinical and personal level on a regular basis, the nurse will be expected to advocate for their patients’ needs to both their families and the larger healthcare team.
The nurse will understand how they react to treatments, and what emotional barriers they may be facing, and the nurse will be their voice if they can’t communicate for themselves. As an Oncology Nurse, the nurse must be aware of the support techniques that are most effective for each patient. This may seem difficult to someone who is not dealing with a potentially terminal diagnosis, so when in doubt, be an active listener.
When patients are likely to be spoken to in a clinical manner, it is critical that the nurse provides a space where they can freely express their concerns, questions, and emotions.
Depending on the level of certification of the nurse, they’ll administer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation, monitor the patient’s vitals and symptoms, help with side effects management, and collaborate with their patients’ broader care team to develop personalized treatment plans for their diagnoses.
Oncology Nurses are always looking for new ways to support their patients as individuals at the forefront of cancer care. This frequently results in innovations tailored to each patient and, on occasion, entirely new methodologies that are scaled across cancer care facilities.
Recognizing the innovative nature of the Oncology Nursing field, the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) established a dedicated center for innovation in 2019, where cancer care providers can connect and share their experiences or findings, with the hope of developing new solutions to transform cancer care as we know it.
How to become an Oncology Nurse
Oncology nurses are involved in many aspects of cancer diagnosis and treatment, including symptom management and prevention.
They not only care for their patients, but they also educate and support their patients’ families and loved ones. Oncology nurses are most often employed in hospitals, but they can also work for home care agencies, specialty medical centers, and ambulatory centers.
Despite the challenging nature of the work, many nurses find a career in oncology particularly rewarding.
If you want to be an oncology nurse, you must first meet the educational and experience requirements to be considered for opportunities in the field. Here are five steps to becoming an oncology nurse:
1. Complete your Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or BSN.
Earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing is the first step toward becoming an oncology nurse. You can become an oncology certified nurse with an associate’s degree as well, but obtaining your BSN will provide you with more opportunities for advancement in the oncology field later on.
If you are already an LPN, you may want to look into an LPN to BSN bridge program. Some schools, such as Herzing University, also provide an accelerated BSN program for students who already hold a bachelor’s degree in another field.
2. Train to be an RN
If you are not a practicing registered nurse, you must take the NCLEX-RN exam once you have earned your BSN, the NCLEX-RN requires you to demonstrate your expertise in four areas of nursing: providing a safe care environment, dealing with job pressures, demonstrating your commitment to preventative medicine and early intervention, and providing quality care.
After passing the exam, you will be able to apply for jobs as a registered nurse and explore opportunities in the oncology field.
3. Become a volunteer
If you’re already a nurse and want to work in oncology, you can gain hands-on experience by volunteering as a nursing assistant in a hospital’s oncology unit or at a large cancer center. If you’re interested in doing so, contact local healthcare employers and inquire about their hiring needs.
Online courses and resources, such as those provided by the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation, can supplement what you learn on the job (ONCC).
4. Obtain certification
To become an oncology certified nurse, you must pass the Oncology Certified Nurse (OCN®) nurse exam.
Prior to applying for the exam, you must have at least one year of experience as an RN and at least 1,000 hours of adult oncology nursing practice. Before applying for the certification exam, you must also complete 10 contact hours of oncology nursing education or take an elective in oncology nursing.
5. Further your education
As you proceed on your journey, To work as an oncology nurse, you must maintain your nursing license and oncology certification through continuing education. If you are a certified oncology nurse, you must renew your certification every four years.
If you want to advance your career, you should consider getting a Master of Science in Nursing. This opens up new opportunities for a career as a family nurse practitioner or nurse educator, as well as various leadership and administrative roles in nursing and healthcare.
Conclusion on How to Become an Oncology Nurse
As an Oncology Nurse, you’ll be an important member of cancer care teams, providing expertise and support to people who have received a frightening diagnosis.
Because of the nature of these diagnoses, being an Oncology Nurse necessitates a high level of compassion as well as the ability to function at a high level in emotionally stressful situations.
While this may appear discouraging, it’s important to remember that the work as an Oncology Nurse provides patients with a valuable source of support as they fight to overcome the odds and emerge as a survivor.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about How to become an Oncology Nurse
See below for the answers to the most asked questions about How to become an Oncology Nurse;
- Is there a high demand for oncology nurses?
Oncology nurses are in high demand, as are all nurses. According to the National Cancer Institute, there will be 1,806,590 new cancer cases diagnosed in the United States in 2020.
Cancer incidence is expected to rise as the population ages, increasing the demand for oncology nurses.
- What abilities are required to work as an oncology nurse?
Oncology nurses must be able to administer various types of treatments under the supervision of a physician, monitor patient response to treatment, effectively communicate with patients and their loved ones, and project empathy without becoming emotionally overwhelmed. They must also manage their own stress while assisting patients and their families.
- How do I know if oncology nursing is the right career for me?
Oncology nursing can be a very rewarding career if you enjoy learning about new treatments and technologies, interacting with a diverse team of healthcare professionals, and caring for people who are under emotional and physical stress.
- Do oncology nurses collaborate with other types of healthcare professionals?
Oncology care is multidisciplinary in nature. Depending on their specialty, oncology nurses collaborate with oncologists, surgeons, nursing assistants, physical therapists, pharmacists, and anesthesiologists.
In pediatric oncology, they also collaborate with non-clinical care providers such as psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and hospital chaplains.