Duties and responsibilities
Oncology nurses are responsible for caring for cancer patients. They administer chemotherapy, implement new methods of symptom treatment and monitor their patients’ progress. Their typical duties and responsibilities include:
- Educating cancer patients about their treatment options, procedures and particularities of the disease,
- Providing care for specified patients, including appropriate supportive care and administration of chemotherapy, blood components, fluid and electrolyte replacements, and other oncology treatments as prescribed.
- Performing assessments of patient care needs for new and ongoing patients.
- Providing support and education to the patients families, and significant others
- Following established departmental policies, procedures, and objectives
Oncology nurses tend to be registered nurses (RNs) who have specialized in Oncology. They tend to have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree but some employers may prefer oncology nurses who have a Master of Science in Nursing degree. Oncology nurses can also seek to obtain certification in the specialty area of Oncology nursing.
Skills and relevant work experience
As well as being physically fit, as this allows oncology nurses to keep up with the demands of the job, oncology nurses will need skills such as:
- Emotional stability, as working as an oncology nurse requires caring for patients, and their families, who may have terminal illnesses
- Communication skills, as oncology nurses will need to communicate with patients and other healthcare professionals. They will also have to keep patient records up to date
- Critical thinking, as oncology nurses will need to come up with solutions when a patient isn’t responding well to treatment
- Compassion and empathy, as oncology nurses must be caring and understanding
- Organizational skills, as oncology nurses will be responsible for handling the treatment of multiple patients
Oncology nurses who work in hospitals usually work in shifts to provide round-the-clock coverage, this means that they may work nights, weekends, and holidays. Oncology nurses can also be on call, which means that they are on duty and must be available to work on short notice. However, oncology nurses who work in places that do not provide 24-hour care, such as out patient centers, are more likely to have regular business hours.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for registered nurses in the United States, which includes oncology nurses, was $73,300 in 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $52,080, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $111,220.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of all registered nurses is projected to grow 12 percent from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. Generally, registered nurses who have a bachelor of science degree in nursing will have better job prospects than those without one.
After qualifying, an oncology nurse may opt to specialize in areas such as pediatric haematology or breast cancer. Oncology nurses with more experience may progress to more senior positions, where they will train and guide other nursing and support staff.