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The Role of an Oncology Nurse

Nursing in the field of Oncology is probably one of the most challenging yet satisfying one in the bunch. Cancer patients are the primary recipients of the expertise of oncology nurses. They are there to help cancer patients steer through their most trying and challenging moments.  Functioning behind the scenes, they work hand in hand with doctors to help cancer patients in their struggle.

In this article, we will talk about the important role oncology nurses play as well as the educational background you need to go through before becoming one.

What are Oncology Nurses?

An oncology nurse is a professional which has expertise in the field of caring for people battling cancer. They serve as the first line aid for patients with cancer. They help coordinate with specialists and doctors to help these patients in alleviating symptoms of cancer. They basically help patients throughout the cancer treatment with the aim of attaining a positive prognosis.

Their duties encompass different tasks which can range from the early diagnosis to the post therapy management.


What are The Main Responsibilities of an Oncology Nurse?

As mentioned above, the role of an oncology nurse is broad. Nevertheless, cancer patients are the primary recipients of their duties and responsibilities. These are the main roles and duties of an oncology nurse:

  • Oversee patient health history
  • Take note of the patient’s physical, emotional and mental state
  • Monitor laboratory test results as well as imaging tests
  • Administer needed treatment and medication (Ex. Chemotherapy)
  • Coordinate with specialist and doctors to monitor treatment plan
  • Educate patients regarding the diseases, treatment as well as its side effects
  • Boost morale of the patient
  • Serve as middleman between patient and physician
  • Help alleviate side effects brought about by treatment
  • Answers complex questions and terminologies asked by the patient

Where do oncology nurses work?

Oncology nurses can work in  a variety of settings. These include the hospital, outpatient wards, private clinics and research laboratories or facilities. The role of the oncology nurse will span from early detection of cancer to treatment, symptom management as well as palliative care.

What type of training do you need to become an Oncology Nurse?

Oncology nurses are required to undergo cancer specific trainings and seminars. These trainings go beyond the basic trainings done by generalist nurses. Moreover, board certification as well as other qualifications must be met before becoming an oncology nurses.

Before going through the certification process, you must first become a registered nurse with an updated license. When you are already a registered nurse, you will be evaluated for eligibility for training.  In some cases, before going through the certification process of becoming an oncology nurse, a master’s degree or several hours in a highly specialized nursing facility is needed.

According to the guidelines set by the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation, you can apply for a certification for either an Oncology cerftified Nurse (OCN) or an advanced oncology certified nurse (AOCN). Once the certification is attained, you need to renew this every four years to continue functioning as a certified oncology nurse.

What are the Challenges Usually Faced by Oncology Nurses?

Taking care of cancer patients can be very rewarding and satisfying. The look of a patient’s face once he knows that he is treated or the relief he feels when he knew that his cancer has remised, is probably one of the  most heartwarming moments an oncology nurse may experience.

However, there are also moments when the task and the situation becomes very intense, not to mention physically and mentally draining. The role also requires you to become very emotionally sound since it is expected that you may witness heartbreaking deaths or other worst case scenarios, which are inevitable.

The job is very demanding as it requires you to tend to the patients concerns several times in only one shift. If you do not perform your task properly, this might lead to very critical situations which may jeopardize the prognosis of the patient.

Aside from the basic tasks demanded from the oncology nurse, if you want to become one, be ready to hear heartbreaking stories from your patients. Sheer compassion from the patients is required to help boost their morale and keep them calm amidst the difficult situation they are being placed.

In most cases, because of the several hours allotted to their patients, oncology nurses form a special bond with their patients and oftentimes share intimate stories in regards to their life as well as dreams and aspirations

How to Become an Oncology Nurse

As mentioned above, for you to become an oncology nurse, you must first complete the required units that are basic of a nursing degree. Once you have finished your degree in nursing, you need to be a registered nurse by passing the National Board for Nursing Licensure exam.

Once you are already a registered and certified nurse, it is time for you to look for universities or colleges that offer specialized programs, in this case, Oncology. Aside from these universities, some hospitals also train registered nurses to become an oncology nurse. This usually takes three years to complete.

In universities, it usually takes two years to complete a specialized training in oncology. The first part of the degree focuses on general nursing, the latter part is focused on skills and knowledge that are specifically required in the field of Oncology. Because of the shorter span of time, most students would rather finish the specialized degree in universities rather than undergo training in hospitals.

Moreover, you can also choose from two types of degrees, Bachelor of Science degree or the Associate Degree. Finishing the BSN degree would give you more edge compared to those who finished the Associate degree.

If you plan on utilizing the knowledge and skills earned further, you can always pursue a Master’s degree or a PHD degree. This gives you higher chance of getting hired or better yet, eligible for an administrative position.

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