Is Oncology Nursing Right For You?


It’s often said that nurses are the heart of healthcare. Becoming an oncology nurse is a rewarding career choice, but you should consider all the pros and cons before making a decision.

What is Oncology Nursing?

Oncology nurses are usually RNs or nurse practitioners who specialize in working with cancer patients. Working as an oncology nurse can be extremely rewarding, but it also has its challenges. As with all specialty areas of nursing, it is essential to weigh the positives with the negatives in order to decide if oncology nursing is right for you.

Oncology Nursing Roles and Responsibilities

An oncology nurse may have a wide variety of duties; including:

  • Screening and preventative care – Completing assessments and administering chemotherapy to patients
  • Patient education – Educating patients on their disease and how to cope with symptoms
  • Helping patients manage side – effects of treatment
  • Quality of life support – Providing patients with continuous counseling and support to improve their quality of life
  • End-of-life care – Some oncology nurses may also work in palliative care, and help patients deal with end of life issues

While oncology nurses may work with patients will all different types of cancers, some specialize and only work with patients with a certain type of cancer or a specific patient population, such as children with cancer.

Oncology Nurse Certification & Requirements

It takes a lot of specialized training to become an oncology nurse, which you must look into if you are interested in this career path. All oncology nurses must either obtain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or be graduates from an accredited registered nursing program and have obtained a state nursing license. Having your BSC in nursing will provide you with more opportunities to advance in the field of oncology later on. 

The next step is to become a registered nurse; this is accomplished by taking and passing the NCLEX. Once you pass this exam, you will be a registered nurse and be able to specialize in oncology.

Requirements to start working in oncology may vary by place of employment. For instance, some hospitals may train new nurses while others require nurses have oncology nurse certification. Certifications including oncology certified nurse and certified breast care nurse are available through professional organizations, such as Oncology Nursing Certifications Corporation.

Oncology Nurse Characteristics

Similar to all types of nurses, oncology nurses must enjoy helping people, be empathetic, and have excellent communications skills. A big part of the job for oncology nurses is educating patients on how to deal with symptoms and side effects from cancer treatments. Oncology nurses should also have a commitment to continuing education. Cancer treatments are continually changing, and nurses have to stay up to date on the latest information. 

The Pros and Cons of Being an Oncology Nurse

Oncology nursing is a wonderful career for nurses who enjoy ongoing relationships with patients and their families. Becoming an oncology nurse is a rewarding career choice, but you should consider all the pros and cons before making a decision.

Pros of Oncology Nursing

Working as an oncology nurse can be a very worthwhile and rewarding career choice. Here are some of the pros of oncology nursing:

  • Predictable standard office hours
  • Freedom to work in a variety of healthcare settings
  • High level of trust and respect in communities
  • Having the unique opportunity to work with the same patients continually and watch many recover
  • Salaries above the national average
  • Since cancer treatments can include a variety of options, oncology nursing can also provide a great opportunity for learning

Cons of Oncology Nursing

Every job has both positive and negative aspects, and oncology nursing is no different. Here are some of the cons of oncology nursing:

  • Occupational stress- oncology nurses may develop strong connections with sick cancer patients who are terminal
  • Exposure to toxic chemotherapy drugs
  • Coping with patient suffering and stress is part of the job

Oncology Nurse Salary & Career Growth Potential

There is no better time than the present to be in the field of oncology. The field is exciting, rewarding, and constantly evolving. Nurses generally want to grow in their field and be challenged with new research, treatments, and technology. Oncology has all this to offer. In the United States, cancer patients are growing every year, so there is always a need for oncology nurses. 

The oncology field offers a wide variety of career opportunities, from bedside nursing to coordination of care, education, research, and so much more. The opportunities for nurses in oncology are endless.

In general, the salary of an oncology nurse will depend on their education, years of experience, and the size of the employer. They may also be affected by where they live and where they work. When a candidate has a BSN, MSN, or is certified in the field of nursing, they’re often offered a higher salary. Due to competition, oncology nurses can be offered improved employee perks and benefits. If there is a high demand for nurses, they may also offer sign-on bonuses.

Ready to Start Your Career as an Oncology Nurse?

If oncology nursing is something that interests you, there are opportunities in hospitals, cancer centers, outpatient clinics and hospices. Some oncology nurses may also work in case management and home care. There may also be travel assignments throughout the country for oncology nurses, especially those with oncology certifications.

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