Preparing For Life as an Oncology Nurse

Preparing for life as an oncology nurse

Life as an oncology nurse can be challenging, but can also be very rewarding. These registered nurses specialize in the care and education of patients who have cancer. They work with dozens of staff members from multiple departments, often in a variety of settings. Oncology nurses can be seen working with children as well as the elderly. You might have had a little experience in the oncology department during your clinical training. Here are some other factors to focus on if you are considering a career in nursing and specializing in oncology:

What do oncology nurses do?
Nurses in the oncology department of hospitals or health clinics assist the oncologist or radiologist of the facility. They help administer radiation and chemotherapy. Oncology nurses are also a part of a team that provides follow-up care by monitoring and  supporting patients after treatment.

One of the most important roles of an oncology nurse is patient assessment. Oncology nurses are responsible for determining if a patient is presenting any adverse or unexpected side effects of radiation or chemical treatment. Doctors will also ask these nurses to perform assessments prior to, during and after chemotherapy. Oncology staff should have a deep understanding of pathology results and the particular implications specific to each type of cancer. They are expected to have in-depth knowledge of the various side effects of treatment.

Oncology nurses also play a major role in a cancer patient's journey through treatment, especially if the cancer is terminal. These nurses are trained in pain assessment and management. They are often asked by patients to mitigate the discomfort of radiation or chemotherapy through pharmacological and non-drug related methods.

Where do oncology nurses work?
Many oncology nurses can be found working in health care settings where patients seek counseling, screening, detection, education and other services related to cancer. They can find work in hospitals, hospices, community care centers and private clinics.

What kind of qualifications does an oncology nurse need?
You can supplement your knowledge of cancer patient care throughout your career as a nurse. Although certification isn't necessary to work in an oncology department, it displays your commitment to the specialized care of cancer patients. The Oncology Nursing Society offers four certification exams: Oncology Certified Nurse, Certified Pediatric Oncology Nurse, Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner and Advanced Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist.

This article is sponsored by Western Governors University, a nonprofit, accredited, online university. WGU offers online RN to BSN, BSN to MSN, and RN to MSN degree programs to working nurses who already have a current RN license. To find out more, please visit

Rate this article: 
No votes yet