Nursing remains one of the fastest-growing professions in the country. Within that profession, many specializations have evolved that provide good career opportunities for nurses with advanced degrees.
One such specialization is oncology. Oncology nurses work with cancer patients and those who are at risk of getting cancer.
It’s an important job that requires a great deal of commitment and compassion, working directly with people battling cancer. There are even specialties within oncology in which nurses work in specific areas of cancer treatment, including pediatric oncology and working with breast cancer patients.
Building a career in oncology nursing typically requires high levels of skills and experience, as well as an advanced education.
What Does An Oncology Nurse Do?
Oncology nurses are at the heart of care for cancer patients. They work closely with patients, caregivers and family members, helping to educate them on cancer treatments, as well providing support and encouragement.
They coordinate much of the care that patients go through for cancer treatment. Some of the duties of an oncology nurse can include the following:
- Working with patients to learn every detail of their health history
- Monitoring a patient through frequent visits on their physical state, as well as their emotional well-being
- Educating patients every step of the way during the treatment plan, helping them understand the need for various treatments and also the possible side effects
- Acting as the primary conduit of communication with patients, often relaying patient information and feedback to doctors
- Helping patients manage cancer symptoms
It’s a challenging career, but a potentially rewarding one.
Job Growth and Salary
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is considered the primary source for information on careers across all industries in the United States. However, they do not break out specific statistics for oncology nurses.
The BLS does provide information for the nursing profession as a whole. The agency projects the number of registered nurses to grow 16% between 2014 and 2024, far faster than the 7% average projected for all professions.
While there is a nationwide need for nurses, the BLS does note that competition can be higher for nursing positions in some parts of the country.
Salary can depend greatly on the type of healthcare operation nurses work in as well as the location. The median pay for all nurses in May 2016 was $68,450. The top 10% in the profession earned almost $103,000.
Salary information varies from region to region and can be affected by factors such as experience, location, job scarcity and education background. All job seekers should conduct their own independent research into salary information and job availability.
Becoming an Oncology Nurse
In order to enter the field of oncology nursing, a nurse is generally required to be a registered nurse, and most oncology certified nurse (OCN) jobs require an advanced degree such as a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Many jobs also require at least a year’s experience as an RN, plus 1,000 hours’ work in oncology, as well as oncology nurse certification through the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation.
Oncology nurse jobs are offered through hospitals, physician offices and cancer outpatient centers.