Steps to becoming a Oncology Nurse

What Is an Oncology Nurse?

Oncology nurses care for patients diagnosed with cancer. As a nurse in a hospital oncology ward, you will administer chemotherapy and other medicines, monitor vital signs and health status, assist in radiation treatments and update patient records. The American Cancer Society states that oncology nurses also educate patients and family members about cancer and what to expect during treatment (www.cancer.org).

Oncology Nursing Step 1: Complete a Nursing Degree Program

Step 1: Earn your bachelor’s degree in nursing. The first step in becoming a pediatric oncology nurse is to earn your bachelor of science degree in nursing. To find nursing programs in your area, check out All Nursing Schools (see Resources).

Oncology Nursing Step 2: Apply for an internship

When completing your degree in nursing, apply for internships in pediatric oncology. This will provide you with experience specific to your industry, and allow you to network; possibly securing a job pending graduation. Contact oncology practices and hospitals in your area for available opportunities.

Oncology Nursing Step 3: Become Certified

Get certified with the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC). Once you’ve worked 12 months as a pediatric oncology nurse, you can apply for certification.

Oncology Nursing Certification

An oncology nurse is a nursing professional who specializes in caring for patients undergoing or recovering from cancer treatments. Like other nurses, they work under the supervision of doctors, specifically those who are managing a patient’s cancer treatment strategy. Oncology nurses may also administer radiation therapy, antibiotics, chemotherapy and blood transfusions to patients.

Oncology Nursing Education Overview

To become an oncology nurse, a student must finish an undergraduate degree program in nursing and obtain licensure as a registered nurse. Diploma and associate degree programs take 2-3 years to complete, while bachelor’s degree programs are four years in length. To attend graduate school, applicants must have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. After graduating from an approved nursing program, obtaining a license is the next step. Earning an RN license requires passing the National Council Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses, commonly referred to as the NCLEX-RN. A license is required to legally work as a registered nurse. Additional licensing and registration requirements vary by state.

Master of Science in Oncology Nursing

Due to the specific nature of oncology nursing, oncology nurses need to earn a Masters of Science in Nursing with a specialty focus in oncology. These 2-year graduate degree programs feature more specialized coursework pertinent to the adult cancer nursing field. Graduates may be qualified to become advanced practice nurses, research supporters or educators as well.

Oncology Nursing Certification Information

The Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation has several different optional certifications available to oncology nurses.

  • OCN: Oncology Certified Nurse
  • CPON: Certified Pediatric Oncology Nurse
  • AOCN: Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse
  • AOCNP: Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner
  • AOCNS: Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Specialist
  • CBCN: Certified Breast Care Nurse

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