What does an Oncology Nurse do?
An oncology nurse is healthcare professional who specializes in caring for patients with cancer. They work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, cancer centers, and clinics. Oncology nurses are responsible for providing holistic care to patients throughout their cancer journey, from diagnosis to treatment and recovery.
Oncology nurses are experts in the management of cancer-related symptoms and side effects of treatments. They work closely with the patient’s oncologist or cancer specialist to develop and implement a plan of care. They also provide emotional support and education to patients and their families.
Oncology nurses can be either registered nurses (RNs) or advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs). APRNs have advanced education and training beyond that of a registered nurse and are licensed to practice independently and provide a full range of healthcare services. Advanced practice registered nurses who specialize in oncology are known as Oncology Nurse Practitioners. They have a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing and have passed a national certification exam in oncology.
On the other hand, RNs are licensed to practice as registered nurses and provide a full range of care under the direction of a physician or APRN. They may have specialized education and training in oncology, but they do not have the same level of autonomy as APRNs. RNs may work in oncology as staff nurses, charge nurses, and case managers.
Oncology nurses have specialized knowledge of cancer treatments, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy. They are responsible for administering these treatments, monitoring the patient’s response, and managing any side effects. Oncology nurses also provide education and support to patients and their families about their treatment plans, and help to coordinate care with other healthcare providers.
Oncology nurses are also responsible for monitoring patients’ vital signs, administering medications, and performing procedures such as IV insertion. They also play an important role in patient education, providing information on symptom management, side effect management, and self-care during and after treatment.
How to become an Oncology Nurse Practitioner
Becoming an oncology nurse practitioner requires advanced education and certification. Here are the steps to take to become an oncology nurse practitioner:
– Obtain a nursing degree: the first step is to become a registered nurse (RN) by completing a nursing program at a college or university and passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).
– Gain experience as an RN: it is recommended to have at least one year of experience as an RN before applying to an oncology nurse practitioner program.
– Complete an oncology nurse practitioner program: oncology nurse practitioners must complete an accredited graduate-level program, which typically leads to a master’s degree or a Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP). Oncology nurse practitioners’ programs are designed to prepare nurses with advanced knowledge and skills in the care of patients with cancer. Master’s degree programs in oncology nurse practitioners typically take 2 years to complete and include coursework in advanced nursing practice, pharmacology, oncology, and research.
Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) programs are also available for oncology nurse practitioners, these programs usually take 3 years to complete and include coursework in advanced nursing practice, pharmacology, oncology, research, leadership, and healthcare systems. Both master’s and DNP programs in oncology nurse practitioner are accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN).
– Pass the certification exam: after completing an oncology nurse practitioner program, ONPs must pass the certification exam offered by the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC).
– Obtain a state license: oncology nurse practitioners must obtain a license to practice in the state where they plan to work. The requirements for licensure vary by state, but generally involve passing a background check and maintaining current certification.
It’s important to note that the requirements to become an ONP vary by state, so it is important to check with your state’s Board of Nursing for specific requirements.
Skills of an Oncology Nurse
Being an Oncology Nurse Practitioner requires a specific set of skills to effectively care for patients with cancer. Here are some of the key skills needed to become an oncology nurse practitioner:
– Strong clinical knowledge: oncology nurses must have a comprehensive understanding of cancer and its treatments, as well as the ability to manage the symptoms and side effects of cancer and its treatments.
– Excellent communication skills: oncology nurses must be able to effectively communicate with patients, families, and other healthcare professionals to provide education, emotional support, and coordinate care.
– Attention to detail: oncology nurses must be able to accurately assess patients’ conditions, interpret lab results, and make accurate diagnoses.
– Emotional intelligence: caring for patients with cancer can be emotionally demanding, oncology nurses must be able to empathize with patients and provide emotional support.
– Critical thinking: oncology nurses must be able to make quick, informed decisions based on limited information, and be able to adjust plans of care as new information becomes available.
– Leadership skills: oncology nurse practitioners may act as the primary healthcare provider and lead a team of healthcare professionals, they must have the ability to direct, supervise, and delegate tasks.
– Strong teamwork skills: oncology nurses must work closely with other healthcare professionals to provide comprehensive care to patients with cancer, including oncologists, social workers, and other nurses.
– Strong research skills: oncology nurse practitioners must keep themselves up to date with the latest research on cancer treatments and be able to apply this knowledge to their practice.
Salary of an Oncology Nurse
In the United States, the average annual salary for an oncology nurse practitioner is $135,971, with an estimated total pay of $144,366 per year, according to Glassdoor. This may include additional compensation such as bonuses, commissions, and profit sharing.
Oncology nurse practitioners typically have higher salaries than oncology nurses because they have advanced education and training, and often have more responsibilities and autonomy in their roles. An Oncology Nurse in the United States earns an estimated median salary of $107,177 per year, with a total pay of $112,000 per year including bonuses, according to Glassdoor.
Oncology nurse practitioners working in certain states tend to earn higher salaries than those in other states. For example, in 2020, the highest-paying states for nurse practitioners were California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts. In addition to that, oncology nurse practitioners working in certain industries also tend to earn higher salaries than those in other industries. For example, oncology nurse practitioners working in specialty hospitals tend to earn higher salaries than those working in general medical and surgical hospitals. It is also important to note that oncology nurse practitioners with a Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP) degree may earn higher salaries than those with a Master’s degree.
Q: How long does it take to become an Oncology Nurse Practitioner?
A: The time it takes to become an oncology nurse practitioner can take around 5-7 years in total. Typically, one must first become a registered nurse (RN) and then complete a master’s degree in nursing with a focus on oncology. This can take 2-3 years of full-time study after becoming an RN. Additionally, one must also pass a national certification exam and obtain a state license.
Q: Is it dangerous to be an Oncology Nurse Practitioner?
A: Like any healthcare profession, oncology nurse practitioners may face certain risks such as exposure to infectious diseases and the potential for work-related stress. The risks that Oncology nurses face are just like any other nurse. In addition to that, oncology nurse practitioners follow strict infection control protocols and have access to the necessary personal protective equipment.
Q: Why become an Oncology Nurse Practitioner?
A: Oncology nurse practitioners have the opportunity to make a significant impact on the lives of individuals and families affected by cancer. They provide comprehensive care, including diagnosis, treatment, and symptom management. Oncology nurse practitioners also can work in different places, from hospitals to clinics to research settings. Additionally, oncology nurse practitioners are considered among the highest-paid nurses.
Q: Where do Oncology Nurse Practitioners work?
A: Oncology Nurse Practitioners can work in a variety of settings, including:
– Hospitals, both inpatient and outpatient.
– Cancer clinics and specialty centers.
– Private practices.
– Research centers.
– Hospice care.
– Community health centers.
– Cancer research centers.
– Pharmaceutical companies.
– Public health agencies.
– Cancer support organizations.
Oncology Nursing Society. https://www.ons.org/ Retrieved from:
American Nurses Association. Retrieved from: https://www.nursingworld.org/practice-policy/nursing-excellence/specialty-nursing/oncology-nursing/
Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation. Retrieved from: https://www.oncc.org/certifications/onc-rn
Salary: Oncology Nurse. Retrieved from: https://www.glassdoor.com/Salaries/oncology-nurse-salary-SRCH_KO0,14.htm