Oncology Nurse Career Info

An oncology nurse works with cancer patients and they are employed in oncology wards, palliative care, care facilities and can also provide treatment, patient education and rehabilitative services.

Basic Tasks

An oncology nurse will work in an oncology ward or oncology clinic and will assist in the treatment of a variety of cancers and they will prepare or deliver the treatment plan based on the recommendation of a physician. Oncology nurses are also responsible for creating nursing care plans which review medical histories, a patient assessment and a nursing diagnosis. These plans will affect the patient from their admission to discharge.

Based on the care plan, duties can also include administering radiation treatments, chemotherapy or other cancer treatment medications. Oncology nurses also assist in pain management. They monitor dosages, IV lines, and provide additional treatments outlined in the plan they or a physician has devised. They will also provide education and support to oncology patients. They are responsible for observing the patient and entering information into a patient's chart. They work with other healthcare professionals, supervise the work of other nurses and assist and advise the family members of patients.

Oncology nursing can be highly rewarding because many patients survive and enter remission; however, for some patients cancer is a terminal diagnosis. As an oncology nurse, you may lose patients to the disease, which can contribute to emotional stress and burnout.

Hours

Most oncology nurses work full time hours, though shifts can vary since hospitals and care facilities are open twenty-four hours. They may also work on weekends, holidays and on an on-call or relief basis. Many nurses are also able to work part-time or may hold more than one nursing position.

Salary

Salary as an oncology nurse depends on your education and experience. A registered oncology nurse receives an annual salary of $61,463. However, according to the Advance Nurse Practitioner Salary Survey, a nurse practitioner, who has a graduate degree in nursing, employed in an oncology clinic receives an annual salary of $84,579. In comparison, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a registered nurse, with no specialization, receives an annual salary of $57,000.

Advancement

The decision to become an oncology nurse can advance your nursing career. Oncology nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who have pursued additional certification. Certification for oncology nurses is available from the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation and there are five certification levels available: Oncology Certified Nurse, Certified Pediatric Oncology Nurse, Certified Breast Care Nurse, Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse Practitioner and Advanced Oncology Certified Clinical Nurse Specialist. Certified Breast Care Nurses, Oncology Certified Nurses, Certified Pediatric Oncology Nurses must all have at least one year's experience as a registered nurse for eligibility to pursue this certification.

Oncology nurses may also become the head nurse within the oncology ward and supervise the work of other registered nurses and licensed nursing. Additional administrative duties, such as scheduling and evaluations, will also accompany this promotion. There are also opportunities in case management, improving outcomes for patients with chronic illnesses, especially for some cancer patients who experience recurring bouts of their illness or who experience after affects from treatment.